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Australia’s first battery “giga-factory” set for development in Darwin

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Darwin is set to play host to Australia’s very own – and mostly likely it’s first – solar powered battery “gig-factory,” after local renewables outfit Energy Renaissance said it had received support from the Northern Territory government for its proposed 1GWh lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant.

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Image: Supplied

Energy Renaissance said on Friday that it had reached an agreement on support from the NT government, helping to “seal the deal” – foreshadowed here in June – to site the facility in Darwin.

The company, which has offices in the ACT, Sydney and Darwin, claims the factory will be the Southern Hemisphere’s first facility producing semi-solid state lithium-ion batteries, which it says are uniquely optimised for warm climates.

The plant, to be named ‘Renaissance One’, is expected to have seven production lines – due to become operational in late 2018 – and looks likely to include rooftop solar panels, although no details on this aspect of the plant have been revealed.

batteries copy

Source: Energy Renaissance

According to the Energy Renaissance website, the company has an “exclusive partnership with the world’s leading semi-solid lithium-ion specialist,” and the financial backing of founding shareholder UGL Limited, and now the NT government.

It also claims the batteries produced at its Darwin plant will have the ”lowest cost of ownership in the market,” a long calendar and cycle life, and the capability to be tailored to client specifications.

“With planning for the facility heating up, reaching an agreement on support from the Northern Territory Government could not have come at a better time,” a statement from the company said on Friday.

“Renaissance One will be a large and highly innovative manufacturing facility, and aims to become an employer of choice for the local workforce.

“Local industries will benefit directly from engagement with the manufacturing supply chain, and indirectly from increased cash-flow within the local economy,” it said.

NT chief minister, Michael Gunner, said his Labor government’s support of innovation’s like the battery manufacturing project would secure jobs for the Territory, while helping it to reach 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

“Battery storage will be an important element in future renewable energy propositions and it is exciting Energy Renaissance has identified Darwin as their preferred site,” Gunner said.

“Darwin is the capital of the north and we provide strategic advantages with our proximity to market. Projects such as this will help the Territory’s economy grow over the long term, creating exciting local job and career opportunities for Territorians.”  

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  • David leitch

    At one point in the 1980s Australia was also going to be the hub of revolutionary new car engines, Sarich, Collins and another I can’t even recall any more. I remember a colleague going to a demo of “revolutionary” car engine in the rain at Centennial park and coming back slightly disappointed at the technical issues. Of course none of them ever amounted to a bag of beans.

    What is the rationale for building a battery plant in Darwin? There are lots of electric cars there? There is lots of cheap labour? There is lots of cheap raw materials? its a global trading hub? There is cheap finance?

    I mean look at all the other manufacturing industries that decided Darwin was the place to be ……

    • FeFiFoFum

      There is a hint of it in the article ….
      “Support from the NT Govt”
      They place by all accounts is a virtual ghost town since the hype of the Inpex project has passed, with a lot of commercial property vacancy and a struggling business sector.
      Seems like the equivalent of a government “pup prime” to try and boost the economy.

    • DugS

      Yep, never going to happen. just a political illusion. Probably be an episode of Utopia. However if they were to slide that pretty picture of the factory downwards on the map about three thousand clicks, then you might be taken seriously.

    • DugS

      Wankle, wasn’t it? The guy with the rotary engine? And don’t forget Joh Bjelke with his hydrogen engine, going to change the world. He went on to run for PM, ha ha we’ve had them all.

      • mzso

        Wankel. Actually wankel engines were used to some degree, though I doubt it has any connection to Australia.

      • JonathanMaddox

        Wankel is older (1929) and not Australian but German. It also actually works, being the engine of the Mazda RX series of cars. The Australian Sarich orbital engine was never brought to production — too many issues with lubrication and cooling, as far as I understand. Or maybe just not enough committed R&D capital, who knows.

    • Matt

      The reasons they listed is proximity to port with access to Asia. Proximity of railway and road networks and access to materials which will probably be coming from WA/NT/QLD/SA. The batteries are designed for warm climates of Asia not the ‘warm’ climates of southern Australia.

  • George Darroch

    UGL/CIMIC are backing them, so there’s some weight to the proposal. I’d like a few more details however.

    • Andrew Roydhouse

      I hope it is not as well put together as the heavily back Multi-function metropolis…

    • howardpatr

      It is technology developed by 24M. 24M has produced these batteries for further evaluation by NEC.

      It seems impossible to track down any information on on performance etc.

      If the goals set by 24M in terms of cost and energy density the battery would be a “breakthrough” but I doubt a shovel will be used on the site until a much, much clearer picture emerges.

      • mzso

        It’s not a good omen that this “breakthrough” without any published performance values is actually the result of failing to develop a high energy density, cost efficient flow battery.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        https://www.aiche.org/chenected/2015/07/mit-startup-reinvents-lithium-ion-battery-manufacturing – July 2015
        “MIT Startup Reinvents Lithium-ion Battery Manufacturing”
        “When fully implemented, this new process will cut costs by 50% and knock out a battery cell in two and a half minutes. That machine won’t take up much space on a factory floor, having been shrunk to the size of a refrigerator.”
        “ ‘Nobody has ever made a battery this way,’ ” Chiang said to GreentechMedia. 24M has made about 10,000 test cells so far using a ‘single wet process from beginning to end,’ he said. Compared to the multi-stage process used in today’s lithium-ion batteries, it’s ‘simplified, streamlined, with a lot of metrology, to make it as reliable and bulletproof as we can.’ ”
        “Increased innovation”
        “Chiang has big plans for 24M. He’s looking to raise another $30 million in a third investment round. That money will be used to scale up an even faster fabricator, which is designed to make a cell every ten seconds and drop costs even lower. It will also be dedicated to manufacturing stationary batteries, which will be deployed in power businesses, micro-grids, and utilities.”
        “Chiang sees this newest machine improving to the point where it will produce batteries for $160 a kilowatt-hour. Then, eventually by 2020, prices should fall to $85.”

        Elsewhere they claim cost of manufacturing of “less than $100/kWh”.
        No public information on cycle-life AFAIK, so I can’t tell if this will be competitive with Tesla/Panasonic, Sonnen, LGChem, and others.
        They are targeting “stationary batteries, which will be deployed in power businesses, micro-grids, and utilities” so energy density and/or specific energy will be less important. (Not unimportant, since it those do have some effect on cost.)

        Interesting. I hope they have achieved a high cycle-life and are successful. 10,000 cells for NEC to evaluate suggests they are not a scam …as Alevo turned out to be. We’ll see how this goes.

        I look forward to cycle-life information and third party verification …or not.

        • mzso

          Yet all this marketing speak reeks of big hops and scarce facts.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see. I would definitely need more numbers and some physical evidence before I invested much. Maybe it’s there. Maybe it’s not.

    • FeFiFoFum

      UGL managed to lose $200 million on a power station project in Darwin which is why Cimic was able to step in and take them over to prevent administration.

      A few more details required is an understatement.!

  • Steve Jordan

    The best of British to them. I do hope they ramp it carefully and with a view to long term viability. BTW, another such facility is mooted for Townsville, where there are projects totalling some 4GW of renewable energy and the region has a load of about 1GW.

  • john

    So which one will start first the factory in Townsville or Darwin?

  • Radbug

    “Lowest cost of ownership in the market & long calendar & cycle life”. Don’t you just hate it when they use adjectives?