The pace of progress in the storage industry is as phenomenal as it is exciting. More and more high-tech companies are announcing new products and collaborations, generating smarter and more efficient offerings. Pundits are now declaring that battery storage could well be competitive for Australian households as early as 2016. A positive equation for those involved in storage and those wanting storage.
SOMEONE RECENTLY DECLARED, “Australia is ready for storage – and the manufacturers are lining up.” The observation is spot on, and the general consensus is that Australia with its high levels of rooftop PV is emerging as the ‘testing ground’ for storage and implementation.
Case in point: US smart energy company Enphase Energy has selected Australia as the launchpad in early 2015 of its Enphase AC Battery, a modular, plug-and-play energy storage system that’s fully integrated into the Enphase Energy Management System with its built-in inverter and software that communicates with the grid.
“Australia is going to be the testing ground for the world,” said Enphase co-founder Raghu Belur during a recent trip downunder. “It is a perfect environment for storage. We will learn so much here about all the challenges and opportunities that all other energy economies will face.”
He forecasts that by 2020 Australia could be home to 1,000 MWh of residential battery storage which would equate to 100,000 homes with a 10 kWh install, and says distributed energy always wins in the long run.
John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Solar Council, who believes consumers will “run not walk” towards home battery providers predicts “that even with the significant upfront outlay, people will be keen to buy the solar energy storage systems from local businesses in order to have greater control over their energy use and energy future.”
There are plenty of local options right now.
The May Day announcement by Tesla – more on that later – actually turned out to be good news for Brisbane-based zinc bromide module maker RedFlow. Chief executive Stuart Smith says Tesla’s entry to the large- scale battery market represents “a significant new competitor” as well as a net-positive: the sector has gained enormous attention. RedFlow has been around for several years and drives home the point its ZBM batteries which offer “substantial technical and environmental advantages over lithium-ion and lead-acid battery chemistries” are available now.
The company has several trials underway with utilities and telecommunications companies and a recent capital raising program attracted an additional $16.1 million from investors. A sign of significant confidence in the sector.
Lithium-ion battery technology is the choice of InHouse Energy, the solar energy storage offshoot of well-established ATI Australia. InHouse director Peter Choquenot says their solar energy storage system’s advanced lithium ion battery systems and intelligent controllers for home, commercial, industrial and regional installations – on and off grid – are available for sale now. They offer a 3.5 kWh, 5.6 kWh and 11.2 kWh battery.
Canberra-based Reposit Power which is best described as an intermediary between households, retailers, network companies and the wholesale electricity market – is teaming up with Tesla by using its Powerwall battery in a series of trials enabling households with solar and storage to trade energy during the day. Known as GridCredits the technology intelligently decides on behalf of households throughout the day whether to store energy in the battery or sell it back to the grid at a profit.
“Reposit effectively allows households to provide value to the energy market and get paid for that,” Chief Operating Officer Luke Osborne told delegates at the Energy Storage Council conference. “People want control over power bills and appliances and to reduce complexity of energy companies; Reposit Power merges storage and controllable loads into a single energy system enabling users to intelligently consume or reduce energy costs and sell back to the grid when prices are high.”
[Later this year Reposit is following up with a commercial offer and option of Tesla’s Powerpack; the offer has already gained several thousand expressions of interest from businesses.]
ARENA – which helped fund the Reposit trial – says this demonstrates the value of funding pilot scale projects to show how renewable energy technologies can operate in Australia’s electricity grids, and that solar storage is becoming more cost effective.
“Storage of rooftop solar stands to be a real game changer in terms of value for customers. For those who don’t benefit from generous feed-in tariffs, the value of solar generated energy can increase from 5 to 8 cents per kilowatt hour, to 25 cents or more,” CEO Ivor Frischknecht says. “The economics look very interesting. It won’t be long before storage becomes a compelling proposition, given current tariff structures.”
There is no question consumers see storage as the next “big thing”, he said and “Given our high penetration of residential rooftops, there is an excellent chance that Australia will be a leader in residential storage systems. It is a telling sign that energy companies are starting to scramble to try to find services that we want to continue to buy from them.”
AGL Energy customers can register interest in the ‘Power Advantage’ proposition which will include 6 kWh lithium-ion batteries suited to rooftop PV of 3.0 to 4.5 kW.
EnergyAustralia is allegedly trialing battery storage technology (unconfirmed reports suggest in collaboration with Enphase) as a future customer offering but will it beat Origin Energy which is said to be fast tracking plans for a battery launch for householders?
For its part – and in a move to avoid costly upgrades to poles and wires – Ergon Energy is installing one hundred battery storage systems. Ergon has teamed with Panasonic Australia, which to date has sold more than 10 billion lithium-ion cells, to commence pilot projects with ActewAGL, Snowy Hydro’s Red Energy and to install its Residential Storage Battery System of 8 kWh usable capacity and 2 kWh output, using lithium-ion battery technology battery technology in selected customers’ rooftop PV in ACT, NSW and Queensland.
Some of the other increasingly popular all-in-one’s on the market are Bosch, Alpha ESS and Fronius (see page 28). Bosch’s smart storage system was launched several years ago and greater sophistication is imminent says Frederik Troester.
“As of September our e.Control management system will be available. This is the intelligent link between our inverters or Hybrid and our heat pump. A heat pump is a cheaper form of storage (thermal storage) and you use your PV power to generate “free of charge” hot water and increase therefore the self-consumption of your PV power.”
AlphaESS has developed an all-in-one Energy Management System for solar households. The series includes a 3 kW and 5 kW solution with the flexibility of installing a maximum of five battery units with each of the units nominated at 2.5 kWh.
“The product is a perfect suit for Australians who want their home to be powered purely by renewable energy,” said Dr Dong Lin of AlphaESS Australia. “With 5 kW PV generating around 20 kWh a day, and the batteries storing half of that for nighttime use, the average household can be independent from the grid.”
With large charging and discharging capacity, and smart control by the EMS, the system can
maximise self-consumption of a PV system up to 10 per cent.
“We are trying to integrate as much functionality as we can into the system because the EMS is the core of our business [and] in future it will also integrate with smart home devices and act as the basis of energy internet with decentralised power generation,” said Dong who added the payback of around eight years will shrink to six or seven years once the market takes off.