ARENA funds independent testing for battery storage

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Which battery is best for Aussie conditions? ARENA aim to tell you…

Just when you thought the news in battery storage was over following Tesla’s launch of the Powerwall, comes this little news gem.

Renewable energy consulting firm IT Power have been granted $450,000 from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) — remember them? — to conduct special independent tests to confirm the efficiency of eight different types of battery storage.

Tesla you may remember has shaken up the recent news in battery storage with their much awaited release of the Powerwall battery at the end of last month. The jury’s still out though on how much the battery will revolutionise storage. The bigger issue of whether or not it will allow Powerwall punters to eventually leave the grid behind is also being debated.

We covered this here and here.

The types to be tested are are six major lithium-ion battery brands; an “advanced” lead-acid battery and a conventional lead-acid battery, according to a May 8 news release from ARENA. The batteries will be put through their paces in a range of environments typical of Australian conditions. The goal is to find the battery most suited to application in this country and potentially the one that will lead the path to viable battery storage for renewable energy.

“ITP will analyse the performance of six major lithium-ion battery brands, comparing them to existing and advanced lead-acid battery technologies to investigate how they could operate in large and small electricity grids,” ARENA CEO Mr Frischknecht said.

“Storage is important for allowing more renewable energy to be used in Australia on-grid and off-grid by smoothing out energy supply,” he added.

The testing will take place at the Canberra Institute of Technology where IT Power will develop a test facility, said ARENA. The tests are designed to be completed by June 2018.

While some are calling the battery storage yet another nail in the coffin of fossil fuel companies, ARENA has made it clear that details gleaned from the resulting report will be “shared broadly across the energy industry”. So will the test lead to a renewable energy storage revolution to accompany that of cheaper solar power?

ITP Managing Director Simon Troman thinks so: “Recent reductions in the cost of lithium-ion batteries coupled with potentially significant performance advantages warrant serious testing of this new storage option.”

So the good news in battery storage goes on. Certainly the trial is designed give potential consumers an understanding of the preferred option in renewable energy storage. Although our guess here at SQ is that by the time June 2018 arrives, hundreds of thousands of Aussies will have already decided on their batteries of choice as hybrid solar rapidly becomes the norm.

Comments

  1. Robin Shannon says

    Hi Rich,
    Thanks for the great work you and Finn are doing in promoting alternative energy. Guys like you are a beacon to the future!
    Just one thing has me a bit puzzled though and maybe you have the knowledge to set me straight. With regard to your article re the funding by ARENA of the efficiency of various battery types for use in solar power storage, why is there absolutely no mention of Nickel-Iron batteries??
    These batteries are absolutely viable and are currently being marketed at a competitive price. They have all the advantages of the other types of storage battery and none of the disadvantages. They last for 40+ years, they are considerably lighter than lead/acid batteries, they do not gain a ‘memory’ and they do not have the problem of the explosive, corrosive electrolyte that dogs lead/acid batteries.
    Before the advent of Nickel/Iron, solar/wind power storage via batteries was not economically viable because of the relatively short lifespan between battery replacement. With Nickel/Iron batteries now outlasting even the best quality solar panels, with one make that I know of guaranteed for 30 years, I would have thought the industry would have been bending over backwards to embrace this technology but articles like the one above do not even make mention of them…..why is this!!! Surely we want to give alternative energy the best tools possible…
    It is disappointing that domestic wind power does not get a guernsey in most forums, as a combination of the two makes alternative energy entirely feasible.
    By the end of this winter season I will have my 1.5Kw vertical axis wind turbine supplying an 850 amp/hr nickel/iron battery bank which will go a major way to supplying all our house needs, and almost everything that our solar produces will be fed back to the grid……I am currently getting a 50c feed in tariff for my solar contribution and don’t want to interfere with that in any way. The only time that any solar will be utilised will be to top up the batteries when there is a prolonged period with no wind, (you have to keep in mind under reasonable wind conditions (10 Kph) a wind turbine will produce electricity 24 hours per day, day after day)!

    On the subject of storage batteries, for those who may be unaware, power is stored in amp/hours, but it is used in Kw/hrs. The relationship between the two is this. Imagine a watering can! The volume of the can….that is the amount you can put in the can, is the amps….the nozzle of the can is the Kws! So the body of the can is the storage and the nozzle of the can is the rate at which that storage is used. You can have a large nozzle and the contents of the can will be used rapidly or you can have a small nozzle and the contents will be used at a much slower rate.
    Now that in itself might not mean much but, there is a relationship between the two! 4.158 amps of stored electricity equals 1 Kw/hr of consumed electricity. The average house in Australia uses electricity at the rate of 26 Kws per day which means that the average house will require 116 amps of stored electricity per day. An 850 amp/hr battery storage bank will power the average Aust home for 7 days without any outside power input….does that make sense?
    You need a combination of the two energy sources because there are times when there is no sun, and there are times when there is no wind…..but the chance of there being 7 straight days when there is no sun and no wind is virtually negligible. With this combination it is almost possible to completely divorce yourself from the grid….the only reason I will stay connected is to take advantage of my solar feed in tariff .
    Keep up the good work Rich…..Cheers, Rob

    • Thank you Robin. Some excellent (and very relevant) thoughts presented and I appreciate you explaining the difference between amps and Kws usage.

      • Bob Banks says

        Hi Ronin, well finally someone has explained the relationship between Amp/hrs and Kw/hrs. Thank you very much. I often see comments about deep cycle batteries being very expensive and short life span, no of cycles and all that. I don’t normally comment as I have a different view and I understand the ‘commercial considerations’ taking place here. But, this is what I found. I lived on a farm in Nth NSW, 5 km from the last power poll plus 800 mtr to the house. Quoted $75000 plus $64000 to connect. So in 2005 I bought 6 x 200w cheap Suntec panels @ $250 ea plus 1.2Kw Selectonic Sienwave inverter @ $1800 6 months old, 6 x 2 v 1000Amp/hr GM Acid batteries second hand 5yrs old, with 20yr manufacturers warranty (Fiamm) and a battery charger/management system/regulator from Jcar for $480. And built a two roomed shed. I used a 6kva diesel generator for welding and once a month boost/ float charge. I NEVER ran out of power in 8 years and as far as I know, its still working fine. I was always going to upgrade when the new technology came along. By the way, Our power usage at the moment in our new house is 12.447kWh/day in Tas for 2 adults. I guess we have learnt to be frugal but we don’t miss out on anything including our careful use of 2 reverse cycle air cons @ 3.2kw ea. Just saying, if you don’t want the top of the range , there are ways to make it happen. And with this new house I will be building my own stand alone system again, no rebate purchases, and no contracts. And I also was asking the same question as you about the Nickel Iron batteries

        • Robin Shannon says

          Good on you Bob….It sounds like you got the better of the power companies when you lived in Nth NSW.
          Nickel/Iron batteries are not new technology….in fact I think they were invented by Thomas Edison around the turn of the 20th century, but they are reliable, safe, and cost effective….A quick Google search today will find a 1,000a/h 1.2v deep cycle 12v array complete with electrolyte and connecting bars currently selling as a new package for $6,090.00. Virtually the same price as lead/acid!!!!
          Now you have to consider that these batteries WILL last for 40 years and do not have a cycle limit on them as lead/acid and lith/ion do. There is a lot of technical information available on-line about these batteries, and I can’t, for the life of me, understand why they are not promoted more by those people in power production….they are absolutely ideal for power storage. There must be something about them that I don’t know about, but in all I have read, I have not come across it yet!!

          I am glad the a/h-k/h explanation helped Bob. Armed with that formula anyone can calculate what their power requirements will be and how to best achieve it. You definitely need sun, but you also need wind, and the cost of a wind generator is cheaper than the cost of a solar array, baring in mind you only have, at best, a 6 hr solar window in every 24 hours compared to a 24h wind window in each 24….once again,does that make sense?
          The only proviso is to buy a good quality European (ie: Pramac) vertical axis generator (stay away from the propeller type, they are noisy and need to be directional) …..they look a bit like a large rotary roof ventilator. Don’t mess with the cheap Chinese stuff, it is all the time breaking down (because, after all, it is a moving piece of equipment unlike solar cells which are static) and constant breakdowns eat heavily into your efficiency.
          Cheers Bob….I hope I have been of further help….Rob

    • William Sharpe says

      What is the cost of those nickel/iron batteries and how quickly are they improving?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel%E2%80%93iron_battery

      Wikipedia doesn’t list the energy/consumer price like it does for other batteries, and also says:

      “Due to its low specific energy, poor charge retention, and high cost of manufacture, other types of rechargeable batteries have displaced the nickel–iron battery in most applications.”

      In addition, it mentions the very high durability and that some new manufacturers have started up. Perhaps you could add new info?

      The Energy/consumer-price on Redflow’s Zinc-Bromide batteries are currently US$400/kW·h, which actually compares favourably to Tesla’s 7kw powerwall, but isn’t as sexy.

      Tesla’s 100kw powerpack is US$250/kWh, the performance of Li-ion doubles every 10 years, and they can be tweaked for different performance profiles by changing the chemistry a bit. Which is probably why many have picked li-ion as a winner, at least until supercaps become a thing.

      Capex costs for these batteries tend to be given more weight then longevity, since any battery you buy now will be obsolete in a decade.

      • Robin Shannon says

        Thanks William for alerting me to the Wikipedia article on Nickel/Iron batteries, I should have thought about looking at that before! But having read that article simply re-enforces what I have previously learned. As that article says the only application they are not suitable for is rapid charge/discharge. They will overheat leading to inefficiency. Apart from that they do thrive on a lot of rough treatment.
        I am still trying to get my head around this ‘powerwall’ business of classifying storage capacity in Kws but, I still harp back to my assumption that as 1 Kw/h of energy use equals 4.16 Amp of stored energy, an 850 Amp/h deep cycle battery array will provide 204Kws at a current purchase cost for Nickel/Iron of $5,200, or about $25.50 per Kw….not allowing for efficiency losses.
        Plus you get 30+ years out of them!

  2. Great initiative by ARENA, hopefully it will stimulate the transition to more renewable energy! Australia has set an ambitious target of trying to obtain 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

  3. It’s not kW/h (kilowatts per hour), but kWh “kilowatt hours” that are the units of energy.

    It would by like saying “Sydney is 300 km per hour away”. Huh? You meant it’s 300 km’s away.

    Batteries store charge. That’s why they’re rated in amp-hours. Just like kWh is a quantity of energy, amp hours are the quantity of charge.

    But as the consumer, we’re not interested in consuming charge, we’re interested in consuming energy.

    To figure out the energy given a battery’s amp-hour rating, multiply the amp-hours by the battery’s voltage.

    For example, a 12 V, 650 Ah battery would store 7800 Wh, or 7.8 kWh.

    Of course, remember that we never get to run a battery down completely if we want it to last, so multiply that number by the percentage you’re willing to run the battery down…

  4. Philip Bramley says

    My PL60 tells me that my panels are charging @ 16A (it is early admittedly) and there is a load of 6.0A going out, the batteries have 34AH in and 122AH out…..can be a bit confusing though!

    Off-gridders I think would be more familiar with Amp-Hours that On-gridders – the difference is battery storage!

  5. Just discovered this web-site. What an incredibly useful collection of fact based discussions.
    I for one am a keen supporter of the hybrid conversation and can’t wait for the ARENA report!
    Thanks for the effort folks. This is even better than the ATA!
    Jim

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