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Tesla vs LG vs Sony vs … storage goes head to head at new ACT test centre

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An ARENA funded residential battery storage trial that will test eight of the  sector’s leading lithium-ion technologies, including the 6.4kWh Tesla Powerwall, is underway in Canberra.

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The three-year trial, which is being conducted by ITP Renewables, was officially launched by the ACT government, ARENA and ITP on Wednesday, on-site at the Canberra Institute of Technology’s Bruce Campus.

Over the course of the trial, lithium-ion battery chemistries and products will be tested and compared against claims made by manufacturers, under Australian conditions. Ongoing results of these tests will be displayed in real-time on a dedicated new website.

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As well as the Powerwall, the batteries being tested include:

– the CALB CA100 – a 3.2V (320Wh) 100Ah cell by China Aviation Lithium Battery Company;

– the Ecoult UltraFlex – a 14.8kWh battery bank & BMS described as advanced lead-acid; Exide’s Sonnenschein Solar Block – a 6V (1.8kWh) deep-cycle VRLA gel battery that currently dominates the off-grid sector;

– the 8.3kWh Kokam StoraXe system – German smarts integrated with Kokam’s South Korea made li-ion cells;

– LG Chem’s RESU – a 6.4kWh li-ion battery with an added expansion pack, taking capacity to 9.6kWh for this test;

– the Samsung SDI AIO – an all-in-one PV and battery inverter, lithium-ion;

– the li-ion LFP Sony Fortelion, which claims “high power, high safety and long lifetime.”

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As we reported here in May 2015, one of the main objectives of the project, which won $450,000 in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, is to measure the batteries’ decrease in storage capacity over time and their compatibility with a range of renewable generation technologies.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the findings of the trial will help energy system designers, suppliers and consumers make informed decisions about the best renewable energy battery storage system for their needs, as the Australian residential battery storage market takes off.

ACT’s minister for the environment Simon Corbell said the state-of-the-art facility would fill critical gaps in public knowledge of battery storage, at a critical time for the industry.StoraXe-Kokam

“By working with organisations like ITP and armed with the results of this unique research, we can support the confident adoption of new battery technologies,” Corbell said at the launch.

“This is an important step in the journey towards embedding distributed storage as an important part of a renewable energy powered grid.

“By sharing the results and data in real time, consumers will be presented with key information on the performance of household batteries, allowing them to make an informed decision when purchasing batteries.”

Corbell also reiterated the ACT’s commitment to supporting and growing the battery storage sector in both the Territory and in Australia, and driving world leading research into high-penetration renewables.

“The investment in energy storage will produce substantial cost savings associated with meeting peak demand and drive the development of new commercial opportunities and jobs in the region,” he said.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht told the launch gathering that while many Australians were hanging back waiting for battery storage prices to fall, this would not be the case for much longer, with costs predicted to fall by 60 per cent by 2020.SAMSUNG-SDI-ESS

“The predicted rapid uptake of batteries promises to deliver real benefits, not just to consumers but also to our electricity networks … by reducing the intermittency of renewable energy – an issue that has sparked much recent debate around the performance of South Australian electricity system,” Frischknecht said.

“Over the next three years, the vital information produced by the centre will help Australians decide which battery to install in their homes and will also help power companies design and transition to innovative renewable energy projects and technology solutions.

“These could include things like micro-grids and Virtual Power Plants similar to the one I helped launch a little over a week ago in Adelaide,” he said.

“Whether you’re a family wanting to know which battery offers the best performance and value for money or an electricity retailer wanting to create new energy storage-based products for your customers, accurate data on how different batteries work will be invaluable.”  

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  • Russell Hanna

    Understand why this is being done, however in three years time, there will be a whole new set of battery technologies on the market.
    This is going forward looking in the rear view mirror.

    • Brunel

      Fair point. They could do accelerated testing. Cycle them as many times as possible per day till they stop working.

      Or just remove some cells from a Powerwall and cycle the cells 10-100 times per day and extrapolate the data.

    • Hi Russell,

      It is true that the battery market is developing rapidly and manufacturers will release new products over the coming years. However, most manufacturers have already conducted their major R&D into large format lithium ion batteries and have settled on their preferred cell chemistry and manufacturing processes. As such our testing reflects the performance of battery cells that will continue to be produced in the future by these companies.

  • Brunel

    Should not government test everything?

    If paint is being imported, how do we know if it is lead-free? Do we just believe what 3rd world factories say?

    If the authorities test tiles for strength, it may turn out that Aussie tiles are as strong as European tiles but are sold for a lower price – thus many Aussies will switch to Aussie tiles.

  • Brian Tehan

    They’re missing the innovative Enphase system with its own micro-inverter per battery – 240v AC input/output. There’s a lot of existing Enphase PV systems around. The only thing is that you need several battery systems to be useful (@ 1.2kwh per module).

  • Ed

    Where is Redflow in the list? A shame they’re not including Australian products.

    • Brunel

      Yep. Why test lead acid instead of Sonnen lithium and Aquion batteries.

      And why not do accelerated testing so we know what battery to buy in 6-12 months and not 3 years.

      • Hi Brunel,

        The trial is in fact conducting accelerated testing cycling the batteries three times a day. We are also varying the ambient temperature of the battery lab daily and seasonally to reflect real world conditions.

        We will be publishing six monthly analysis of how the batteries are performing. We hope to have preliminary results by the time our first report is published (after ~ 550 full cycles).

    • Hi Ed,

      Unfortunately the ARENA funding agreement for the trial only covers the comparison of Lithium ion batteries with Lead acid batteries.

      Also it should be noted that the Ecoult Ultra Battery is an Australian developed product and is included in the trial as an advanced lead acid battery.

  • Peter Wyatt

    It is crazy to just test Lithium ion batteries with Lead acid batteries.
    New Battery tecknology such as RedFlow and others will overtake Lithium iron and Lead acid in the next few years

  • Blackandwhite

    I agree

    A complete waste of tax payers money. (If your not going to run a fair comparison of all battery types)

    ARENA only wants to support lithium chemistry, why?! (And one lead acid) These government run greedy corporate infiltrated business man think people are stupid.

    We know there are better battery chemistries available. A real comparison would have been to include the other battery’s already mentioned from Aquion, Red flow even the longest lasting battery Nickel-iron, but that would not provide the results they are after.

  • Jayme Capurso

    As others have stated here, in 3 years time there will be completely new tech in the battery world. To be of use to the public, shorter and more stressful tests might have been better, maybe not as accurate as to real world usage but would likely be better results in the real world because of it.

    Also this study has left out the newest battery alternatives to lithium making it even less relevant in 3 years time. Hopefully we can project a semi accurate trend within the next 6 months as to the most practical choice.

  • Lightfoot

    Extremely useful testing, I will be following this closely over the course of the 3 years. As an installer, I am especially interested in how high ambient temperature affects the different test batteries.

    I would also like to see Redflow’s flow battery and Aquion’s salt water battery in the lineup, but it is still a good test, looks very thorough and a vital research to complete.

  • Miles Harding

    Good to see CALB in the lineup.
    These represent consumer accessible large format LFP cells. I would expect that the CALB results will be applicable to Winston’s LFP cells, which perform very similarly to CALB in EV conversions.
    So far, the EV experience hase been very good, with only the first batteries (7 years old) showing signs of performance degredation and almost no forced retirements.

    This video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxP0Cu00sZs
    explains many of the failure mechanisms and test methodology to estimate the life performance of lithium Ion batteries.

    Among other things, the length of this trial is an issue. It is unlikely that degradation of the batteries will become evident within three years. It is unfortunate that a popular flooded lead acid, such as a Trojan T-105RE, wasn’t included in the comparison. Also, the lead acid batteries aren’t as efficient as Li-Ion, so this should also be included to indicate the additional charging (solar) required to overcome the losses and self-discharge of the cells.