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Australia networks look to battery storage to cut grid costs

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Victorian network operator SP Ausnet has commissioned a 1MW/1MWh battery storage facility that could herald a new approach to dealing with peak demand, and avoid future costly network upgrades.

SP Ausnet is just the latest to invest in battery storage trials, but the project agreed with engineering group ABB and Korean industrial giant Samsung appears to be the largest of its type so far in Australia.

ABB and Samsung will build what they call a hybrid Grid Energy Storage and Diesel Generation System that will include the battery storage (using lithium ion batteries) and a 1MW diesel generator.

battery storageAccording to ABB, the plant (illustrated right) will be a pilot for future grid-integrated storage systems that could be used to supply additional capacity during high demand periods and offset or delay expensive investment upgrades of power lines.

While such systems are used in off-grid situation, this is said to be the first embedded grid-scale battery storage installation of its size in Australia, a country which is considered to be a prime market for battery storage because its networks have to cover such large distances.

Interestingly, the plant is a mobile device, which comes in seven containers and “kiosks” so it can be deployed at different parts of the network. The mobility factor explains the use of a diesel generator rather than gas.

SP Ausnet says it is clear that battery storage will play a growing role in electricity use in Australia in coming years. A spokesman said individual consumers were looking to install battery storage for their own purposes, and grid operators such as SP Ausnet were also looking to see how storage could best play a role in their networks.

SP Ausnet currently runs four 1MW diesel plants – all of which were used at various times during the heatwave in Victoria last week, but the spokesman said battery storage offered greater options and flexibility. SP Ausnet operates electricity distribution and transmission lines in Victoria, as well as a gas network. The new plant will be trialled at different locations.

Other network operators are also looking at battery storage in various forms. Ausgrid, the network operator in NSW, last year said it will install a 60kW battery storage system in the Sydney suburb of Newington to see how it can help manage summer peak demand events.

Queensland network operators Energex and Ergon have also recognised the looming impact of battery storage. Energex warned that as energy management options such as smart appliances, energy management software, in-home generation and battery storage become more available and affordable, “we expect to see a significant change in the way customers use energy and our network.” Ergon said it was likely customers could source solar and storage more cheaply than the network.

In Tasmania, Hydro Tasmania has commissioned Ecoult to intall the largest battery-based renewable energy storage system in Australia at its King Island Renewable Energy Project. The 3 MW/1.6 MWh UltraBattery storage system will complement other elements of Hydro Tasmania’s project, which in recent months has managed to switch off diesel generators for up to 90 minutes, relying solely on wind power.

The GESS system provides peak demand management, active and reactive power support and other power quality functions, can also provide power as part of a mini grid when parts of the network become isolated.

ABB says the battery system and smart inverter are the primary energy source for the unit, while the diesel generator acts as back-up to extend the capacity available.

The plant is managed by ABB’s new Microgrid Plus System – which it has tested in Darwin – and comes as a transportable power station consisting of seven outdoor containers and kiosks.

“ABB had the opportunity to demonstrate to SP AusNet the value of leading-edge technology that is available at its doorstep,” David Baker, ABB’s division manager for Power System in Australia, said in a statement.

The project is due to be completed in 2014.  

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  • Sean

    substitute natural gas for diesel and they might be on to a winner.

  • Chris Fraser

    Yes, if they can transport it to a convenient source of gas. This application is going to change how network providers see storage. SP Ausnet should be congratulated for their foresight. More power (excuse the pun) to them.

  • Craig Allen

    Where in Victoria and for what reason? SP Ausnet supplies gas to regional Victoria, so it would be interesting to know what the rationale is for going with diesel.

    • Sean

      The rational for diesel is probably because the “back-up generator” has been attached as a last minute “add-on” and what fuel do you put in a “back-up generator”? Diesel. Swap the generator to gas and you might have more reasons to run it.

    • Mick

      This is perhaps related to the fact that SP Ausnet’s distibution zones for gas and electricity (intentionally) don’t overlap – see here: http://www.sp-ausnet.com.au/?id=230151006945FE5851950059CA25757600396511

      Also, I would be very surprised if electricity network constraints (at a distribution level) would be nicely co-located with gas network access. And given the (likely) nature of these units – i.e. mitigating the peak of peaks – I would suspect that building a gas pipeline / connection that is only used a few hours of the year would not be cost effective.. (and doesn’t really fit in with the “mobile” nature of the devices)

      Besides – I according to AER documentation, the choice of diesel was not only to keep costs down, but to “to extend the MWh rating of the battery system
      to provide full coverage of the peak demand period …..to fully simulate a larger battery system”… This is afterall only a trial, so perhaps the future holds battery only (i.e. no diesel – or gas for that matter)..

      Also worth keeping in mind both gas and diesel are fossil fuels.

  • Rob Campbell

    It seems to be a common argument when ever storage coupled to renewables is discussed, a requirement for a back-up generator, regardless of whether it is fueled by Diesel or gas some how makes the whole renewable concept moot. I had a frustrating conversation with a large distributor about substituting remote area diesel generation with solar and storage. I could not believe the response when I offered a solution for N-1 situations, ie. prolonged lack of solar resource. “your not going to charge batteries with diesel, if you need to it is a pointless exercise (installing solar and storage).” What this engineer failed to grasp that while diesel was there as a back up, 95% of the power would be derived from renewables, that means that it would save ninety-five out of each hundred litres of diesel that it was currently using, not to mention wear and tear on the generator.
    This seems to be one of the favorite responses to the offer of renewables even in grid situations, the failure to meet N-1 standards. Surely, even over the short term logic must prevail and the need for a back-up is insignificant to the heavy lifting renewables are capable of.

  • Name

    Batteries are one way at the small end of the market but at a larger scale but equally effective – where are the new pumped storage schemes as daily or longer batteries??
    Surely a new decent (10MW plus) pumped storage must be viable with plenty of energy available at cheap prices, plus a wider energy pricing range due to the market and with even peakier pricing peaks than twenty or thirty years ago when it was approaching viability then.
    Criteria for success is peaky power, price, grid near by, water and topography.
    Limits the field in Australia but I have a site in mind in the middle of the east coast grid and it might be cheaper than batteries but at a bigger scale and definitely not portable in seven containers.
    A serious investment by someone wanting to have a nice business playing the market and does not want to winge about fossils versus renewables, as both will benefit.
    Dave Rossiter – former renewable energy regulator (RET) and greenhouse energy and data officer (NGERS)

  • Leon

    I can’t help myself: concentrating solar thermal power plants with molten salt storage (thermal battery) would be perfect for meeting the peak power demands of our hottest days. If it’s really hot, that’s because there’s a lot of sunshine – CST plants capture the infra-red, as well as visible, energy and can be putting out maximum power all day long and continuing to dispatch that power late into the night to meet the demand lag thanks to the molten salt thermal battery.

  • It is great to see utilities actually responding to the changing world. Energy storage is a reality and the sooner we respond positively the sooner we will see it as an opportunity and not a threat. We at Magellan saw this 5 years ago and we have been developing energy storage for many applications. As far as utility scale energy storage is concerned Magellan has designed, manufactured and delivered a 100kVA/400kWh energy storage equipment to Transgrid NSW. Please see http://www.magellan-power.com.au/component/virtuemart/renewable-energy2012-06-06-07-05-521/100kva400kwh-energy-storage-system–detail
    All Aussie made!