Australia steps up the pace in battery energy storage race

By Angela East for Stockhead

The Northern Territory has installed “one of the largest grid-connected energy storage solutions in Australia”, providing further evidence of growing demand for battery metals.

The $8.3 million 5MW battery system was installed in Alice Springs to support greater supply of solar power to homes.

Solar already supplies up to 40 per cent of power in Alice Springs during high penetration periods such as the middle of the day.

The new system will bump that up to 50 per cent.

The initiative is part of the Northern Territory’s push to have half its power coming from renewable sources by 2030.

This latest battery launch comes close on the heels of the installation of a trial 105kWh Tesla battery in a Mandurah suburb, south of Perth in Western Australia, designed to allow households with solar panels to maximise their existing grid connection.

The number of household solar batteries installed in Australia this year is expected to jump 57 per cent to 33,000 compared to 2017, according to industry consultant SunWiz.

The 2017 figure of 21,000 was already three times higher than the year before.

South Australia dominated headlines when it announced it was installing a $91m Tesla lithium-ion grid battery.

In May, reneweconomy estimated that the battery had already taken a 55 per cent share in the state’s frequency and ancillary services market, and lowered prices by 90 per cent — a total saving of around $35 million for consumers in just four months.

Other government initiatives are expected to drive the installation of batteries in South Australia alone to between 40,000 and 100,000 over the next four years.

Vanadium vies for top place in battery storage

While the electric vehicle space is firmly dominated by lithium-ion for the moment, stationary storage is more diverse.

There are a couple of battery technologies vying for top spot, but the spotlight is largely on vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs).

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence predicts that by 2028, 50 per cent of the burgeoning stationary storage market will be lithium-ion, and 25 per cent will be VRFBs.

VRFBs are regarded as a safer alternative to lithium-ion and better suited to large-scale applications.

They come at a higher upfront cost but have a far longer life compared to lithium-ion batteries.

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