2018: When battery storage gets a grip on the grid | RenewEconomy

2018: When battery storage gets a grip on the grid

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The year that storage takes hold in 2018? And what about electric vehicles, smart cities, and the underlying case for wind and solar?

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There are no prizes for predicting that there will be more batteries in Australia’s electricity grid next year: the trick is predicting how much.

Longer term, the predictions are bullish – up to 80GWh from the likes of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and a more modest 20GWh from the latest AEMO document, the Integrated S

What happens in the short term, in calendar 2018, is less clear, as battery storage balances on the pivot point of whether it is actually economic or not, and whether the anticipated cost reductions that would tip that scale arrive in time.

Ray Wills, the WA energy expert who doubles as a “futurist” with the Future Smart consultancy, and heads Sun Brilliance, a company planning to build WA’s biggest solar farm, has stuck his neck out:

He predicts an additional 800MWh of utility scale batteries installed or in construction by this time next year, and almost as much battery installed behind the meter by the end of 2018.

quiz graph 6 copy


Certainly there is interest. Tesla already has a 129MWh battery storage up and running, Victoria still plans another 100MWh of storage, Wattle Point and Lakeland should be completed, Lincoln Gap and Whyalla should have moved close to construction, and numerous other projects such as Kennedy and other solar projects moving towards storage.

At the distributed level, Wills is confident that the payback for solar and batteries combined will mean new installs will start to outstrip solar-only installations over the course of 2018 – and into 2019 no-one will install solar without a battery.

That’s quite a prediction. Already, we have seen rooftop solar at its highest level ever – tipping more than 1GW in 2017 – and installers report interest is continuing to boom.

Another 1GW is expected to follow in 2018 – and why not, considering the huge cost of grid power that shows no sign of any imminent or meaningful fall.

Wills remainds us that regardless of the technology – be it a TV set, car, mobile phone, change always comes faster than expected.

“So you can assume batteries will be faster. Continuous falls in battery cost reductions are consistently demonstrated and a high probability to continue.

Most importantly in this trend is an artefact of battery capacity – storage will be bigger than production source: eg in homes average rooftop solar in Australia is 5kW, battery pack size will be 15kWh plus.

The key trend will be even more Integration and digitisation – bringing all the separate pieces of solar and efficient appliances and lighting and storage together with smart energy management utilising AI and machine learning.

Certainly, this accords with two major new reports that have been delivered this week – AEMO’s look at the future grid and how rooftop solar and storage can be harnessed for the benefit of the grid, and the NSW taskforce looking into energy security in the coal state.

“Novel applications of solar will start to emerge as we look for a generation 2 (and 3) to replace generation 1 solar modules,” Wills says.

“The availability of Tesla’s solar tiles for roofs is the harbinger of the various announcements we should expect in 2018 – including more road surface trials and see through solar glass products to the 3d printing of solar product  …. And perhaps some decent amount of solar glass on cars.

quiz graph 1 copy

Speaking of vehicles, Wills notes that we’ve already moved from a headline a year to a headline a day in the car industry.

“Beyond the basics of all vehicles going electric, there are so many elements changing in the car industry – part of global mega trends in mobility and connectivity and autonomy and the internet of things.

“The key change with the new trends is that we have moved on from predicting what might happen in the future to measuring it, seeing it happen. The only question is just how fast the growth trend is – fast or very fast?

quiz graph .

“Also, as we plan cities, millennials are behaving differently – more likely to live in apartments and ride transit, and so will reside in places with restricted parking.

“And they are comfortable with sharing apps like Uber and Airbnb – and so will be just as comfortable with car sharing as they move from being young, dependant consumers to self-funded consumers.

(They may well be, but when confronted with the idea of autonomous and shared vehicles, Trump’s America responded to our story with outrage fury – the general view from there was: “I’ve got a truck, and I’ve got a gun, and you can go to hell”).

But Wills says, the urbanites do appear to be listening to the smart city logic – and the data are solidly supporting the conclusion that the knowledge economy thrives in liveable, walkable, sustainable cities.

quiz graph 3

“Globally – the triumph of renewables is almost upon us – but my view is next decade will be bigger and faster than this one.

“In my assessment, there has been no economic logic for “new” coal since 2015, which is why last year I predicted that globally we would see a surge of nations announce closure of old coal plant, and in related moves, even more government commitments to banning diesel engines and improving air quality in cities and nations.

“Now the falling cost of storage could rule out “new” gas by 2018 – but it will take a few years for this to be obvious, and then one or two more for it to properly stick.

wills graph update

“So doing the timeline, it will be blindingly obvious that electrical storage works out cheaper than peakers from 2021, and I predict the world will build no new gas post 2023. (Matched with the earlier prediction of no new combustion engine vehicles post 2025).”

Wills says the other push will be on the Australian front an attempt to value add in the battery space in Australia – with Australia’s dominance in the raw materials of storage, there might finally be an opportunity for Australia to do more than just make big rocks into small rocks.

“The potential to value add downstream of the raw materials for storage products is obvious – but without the right policy climate, may be stifled and missed.”


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  1. epicycler 3 years ago

    all good, an electricity grid that morphs to look like any other distribution chain, with production centres, big warehouses and little storerooms for all that newly discovered inventory.

    just like the pub that fills the fridge with beer from the storeroom before the evening peak, and orders some more from the distribution centre before the store room is empty. And so on. The brewery just keeps producing, more or less constant, with a bit of seasonal variation. Inventory helps balance supply and demand in both production rate and timing.

    We’ll likely need some different planning mechanisms to manage all power (capacity) and energy (inventory). We store energy (inventory) in storage (battery or pumped or …).

    Demand management is really not a good part of the mix. We wouldn’t close the pub because too many people wanted a beer. Would we?

    Time of use metering and other forms of demand management makes absolutely no sense at all when inventory is introduced to the distribution chain. It only makes sense if the wires don’t have sufficient capacity.

    Mainly because when there is sufficient inventory, with almost zero marginal cost of regeneration, the spot price no longer follows demand. The arbitrage that currently exists between peak and off peak that one battery can take advantage of disappears with sufficient inventory. A flattened bid curve. To continue with demand management and time of use metering would be an unnecessary intervention in the market. A smart meter is far from smart.

    • Carl Raymond S 3 years ago

      True, nobody likes to wait for their beer. But your car can wait hours or even a day to get a charge. Your pool filter is equally patient. The hot water can assess the need to heat *now*. Water irrigation, industrial drying etc. Many ways to include demand management without real inconvenience. Make it opt in, so the savvy do so and enjoy the cheaper tariffs.

      • epicycler 3 years ago

        true, the beer is waiting for the somebody, one would think it would be cheaper to brew it in the pub on-demand.
        And the car is idle most of its life, waiting for the somebody.
        We have so much spare capacity in most fields.

        Its quite possible that demand management and storage are solving the same problem in different ways. Either shift supply to when its needed or shift demand to when supply is available. Its always more expensive to do things twice.

        Perhaps I want domestic energy management rather than the network driven concept of demand management. Simplistically the bit that can fill the battery first then turn on pool and hot water and sell some depending on available solar. Maybe that will appear after the batteries. When its “my” solar price is irrelevant. But then that will also apply to all the other market participants……….

        • Andy Saunders 3 years ago

          Don’t forget, most demand management will be industrial loads. And much of the larger ones will be SCADA-controllable, so effectively near-automatic.

          • Random Internet Dude 3 years ago

            A small correction. Most demand management IS industrial loads and most of the larger ones ARE SCADA- controlled.

            Demand management has been part of the Australian electricity network for decades. Currently managed demand is shifted to times when baseload generation exceeds power demand. This needs to shift to reflect the change in generation technologies.

            At this point opposing the introduction of demand management is like opposing the introduction of the metric system. Decades too late dude.

        • Ian 3 years ago

          Check out Enphase’s web site or that of Tesla. One of the functions of the home battery is to manage a household’s demand. Ideally with a FiT less than the price of imported electricity, you’d want to maximise your self-consumption of your solar output. To do this effectively you would need to switch appliances on and off according to some sort of hierarchy and use your battery to keep as much of your cheap but precious solar energy from leaking into the grid, and at the same time, prevent the grid from topping up your supply deficiency because you have too many appliances running simultaneously .

          With a big enough battery you could participate in a voluntary demand management program with the grid, ie you could buy your beer at a good price and store it in your cold room, and then fetch it out at your leisure, to continuously supply your customers, whilst the pub manager down the road sits on the phone begging for a just-in-time supply of beer at an inflated price.

          You could imagine city dwellers participating in the demand management game, simply by installing a battery without solar, they could buy off peak electricity, store it and use it at peak times. Imagine such a grid where dirty and intermittent electricity is supplied cheaply but customers get nice clean 24/7 50hz leccy all because they have a buffer of batteries and inverter.

          • epicycler 3 years ago

            I keep looking for standardised protocols (not the modbus or tcp level, the messaging level, the standard message for how full the battery is, etc) and integration between battery, inverter, meter, switchboard/appliances, and market. I’m looking for a lot more integration than seems to be currently available off the shelf. Hopefully we don’t all need Tesla SCADA. 🙂

          • Ian 3 years ago

            Fair enough, I think I see what you mean. No actual automatic switching of appliances on and off, no integrating with the market. When you say SCADA, presumably you are referring to supervisory control from the grid side of the meter.

            This looks like a unfulfilled need ie business opportunity. Why has no one come up with something so basic?

            Clipsal have C-bus wireless wall switches. The technology is there, it may just require some reworking. Apple may be good at that considering their HomeKit is already in existence but mainly aimed at the consumer level, ie switching on lights, and opening doors. There’s the hot water solar diverters. Since water heating is generally the biggest expense, this might be all a person needs. Catch Power has one, but this is over $1000 to install.

          • epicycler 3 years ago

            the grid connect solar stuff seems to have been built from a perspective of grid connect. Sometimes to the extent of passing data to central repository for analysis and use.

            On the other hand there’s “home automation”.

            Add in the “internet of things”.

            The powerwall provides data as standard JSON which can be converted to MQTT (a standard messaging protocol of choice for IoT) but converting Clipsal proprietary C-bus to MQTT is more difficult. Homekit can “talk” MQTT then seems to do something else internally. I don’t know about inverters and smart meters and ….

            Basically lots of messages flying around with different standards. Not everything understands everything else.

            Just one way of integrating, IoT message broker can add logic to turn things on/off. SCADA is another approach.

            Usual battle of commercial interests limiting integration.

  2. trackdaze 3 years ago

    The USA and CHINA is likely to have already seen or be very close to peak internal combustion (only) vehicle production.

    For the USA it was 2016 by virtue of ev sales up 35% (200k) hydrids up 7% (350k) in a total market down 3%.

    China is likely to see 500,000 plug in EVs sold this year.

    With ~ 2million plug in Evs likely to be sold next year (1.15m estimate 2017) the phenomenon may well be worldwide.

  3. Robert Westinghouse 3 years ago

    Agree. We all have to bite the bullet and do it. I have another 2kW of battery arriving tomorrow….viva la batterie…Malcolm and the LNP can go and stick their heads in a coal mine….LNP have done nothing and I think that is all you are good at – nothing. So please stop and continue to do nothing. The good people of Australia will fix it without your screwing it up…..

    • MaxG 3 years ago

      It’s normal; called storm season… as long as powerlines are above ground some wind will blow ’em down or tree fall onto it.

      • JWW 3 years ago

        I was wondering about that so I googled a bit. Burying the cables is maybe 10x more expensive, but it also makes the supply much more reliable, it appears. In Germany 87% of low voltage cables are in the ground, and they have second lowest SAIDI (minutes without power per year) value in Europe, being less than 20. Australian urban areas have values more around 50-150.

      • Brunel 3 years ago

        National underground power supply network. Probably a better idea than the 12 submarines.

        • MaxG 3 years ago

          Probably… but seriously, who would make money out of this?

  4. handbaskets'r'us 3 years ago

    That reaction mentioned in the post above (Trumps America) is quite something….

    The number of blue roofs around here is just astonishing.
    There’s more every day. The installers are flat out. Talk about a growth industry!
    6kW of batteries going in here tomorrow, -should do just nicely.
    Charge my car, run my house, -chill the Christmas beer… Hooray!

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      Wow, 6kwh of battery, gee you must be very energy efficient then, lol. Hope you have a big PV array to power all that.

      • Cooma Doug 3 years ago

        Load shifting doesnt need sunshine and or wind.
        Load shifting opportunities will earn enough to pay for your battery before the sun comes up.

        • solarguy 3 years ago

          I know Doug, I’m doing it!

      • Jo 3 years ago

        Please remember, the size (capacity) of batteries is measured in kWh not in kW

        • Guy Stewart 3 years ago

          It’s important to know both kW output and kWh storage capacity for batteries. The products on the market varies greatly from 0.2kW/1.2 kWh from Enphase to 5kW/2.5kWh from BYD.

          • MaxG 3 years ago

            OK then, mine can deliver sustained 20kW, and also happens to be a 20kWh battery. However, my inverter/charger can only ‘make’ 7.5kW, hence, the battery runs on C/3 max.

          • Greg Hudson 3 years ago

            ‘Guy Stewart’
            You seem to have forgotten the cheapest system (by capacity)… The Tesla PowerWall2 is 5kW output / 13kWh capacity.

          • Guy Stewart 3 years ago

            There are about 50 different units available. All with pros and cons. Tesla’s Pro being price per kWh and high quality app and backup system, Con being long waiting time due to limited stock availability.

            I was going for the biggest variation of ratio between kW and kWh.

            Huge comparison of the market here:

        • solarguy 3 years ago

          Step back a bit there, Jo old son. I said, KWh!
          I’m not a fuckwit, I design these things for a living.

          Read my post again! And then apologise!

          • Jo 3 years ago

            Mate, I slipped by one post level.
            But you did also get it wrong. First you wrote kwh, now you wrote KWh. The correct term for the unit of energy is kWh. I am sure this was a typo (;-)

          • solarguy 3 years ago

            Jo, really who cares.

      • handbaskets'r'us 3 years ago

        Thanks solarguy, we’re putting 6kw of Trinas on, as well as a Fronius inverter/management system etc.
        There’s already 6kw here, -the new installation is (theoretically) offgrid.
        So that’s 12kw and we already get money back on FIT. Reckon it’s enough? I’m thinking maybe a hydro setup….lol…

        • solarguy 3 years ago

          I hope you realize that having installed a Fronius, you have to use a Fronius battery, unless you go AC couple?

  5. Jo 3 years ago

    I find it strange that batteries appear so much sexier than solar panels, while they are financially so much less attractive. Most battery systems have a longer payback time than their life time. What’s the advantage of a domestic system besides some warm and fuzzy feeling?
    (I exclude from this car batteries, as they are for very different circumstances)

    • Hans the Elder 3 years ago

      In a a 2014 report the IEA found that most grids can cost-effectively
      deal with about 45% of variable renewables using the technology that was
      available at that time. Cheap batteries will be a major part of the solution to get beyond this 45%. If find that very sexy.

      • Chris Marshalk 3 years ago

        That’s so hot. Lol

    • MaxG 3 years ago

      Well, you are probably right — my 20kWh LiFePO4 battery cost me 10 grant… or 10 for 5, which is cheaper than panels; which are 5 for 5… I have 12kW/h (gross) in panels; producing triple what I need. The battery however, gets emptied 50% for most of the time and 70-80% in winter.
      Some quick numbers, if the life is 15 years, and I get an median of 12kWh/day out of the battery, at 30 Cents/kWh or $3.60/day or $1,300 worth of energy p.a. — this translates to 20k$ vs cost of 10k$… so it works for me better than a warm and fuzzy feeling; not even considering the uptime with the big UPS 🙂 Since I installed it in May 2016 I had zero outage time; while the neighbours had 58 hours of outages (being in the country).

      • Jo 3 years ago

        Where does the 30 Cents/kWh come from?
        Is this the difference between the electricity tariff and the feed-in tariff for solar?

        • MaxG 3 years ago

          No, just the normal kWh cost… I get 11 Cents FiT, and pay 26 now I think. However, I am limited to 5kW/h export; meaning I have excess PV, thus storing it in a battery.

          • Jo 3 years ago

            Thanks. And I can see your point about outages.

      • Ian 3 years ago

        Sorry Max, but if you want to compare solar panels with batteries then you have to reconsider the nature of solar panels and batteries to make them the same, no point comparing cows with milk pails now is there.

        Well to turn solar panels into batteries you have to consider the energy source.: solar panels are just switches connected to the big solar battery in the sky. Unfortunately this battery is very capricious and only works in the day , when it feels like it., but on the whole you can expect 5kWh on average daily for every 1 kW panel area you put facing the sun. Your lithium batteries work anytime you want them to, but they are not self charging like your sun ones, be that difference as it may, for every kWh of storage capacity you can only get one kWh of electricity out of it. If solar arrays are roughly $1000/kW and these have a multiplication factor of 5 and your batteries $500/kWh with a multiplication factor of 1 then your solar array costs $200/kWh and your lithium batteries $500/kWh;) 😉

        • MaxG 3 years ago

          My response was in reply to Jon’s comment…
          The context is financial attractiveness of PV vs BS…
          In my thinking (and I see your wink there) — while your calculation is correct for the cost to purchase said kWh —, what matters is the cost per kWh extracted over the life of the product. But you knew that… 😉

      • Greg Hudson 3 years ago

        What brand of batteries did you buy?

    • Alex Hromas 3 years ago

      Jo if you are on a TOU tariff and charge your batteries at off peak about 12 C/kWh and use them to offset loads at peak about 45 C/kWh you can get a good payback without PV panels. For folk who do not have the luxury of turning off critical appliances during the peak period this is very useful

      • Jo 3 years ago

        Sure, but burning through 12kWh on average per day throughout the whole year is a lot of energy. And the payback gets worse as there is no peak tariff on weekends.
        I can however understand the advantage of batteries if there are a lot of blackouts (which are not existing in my area).

        • Alex Hromas 3 years ago

          You can use a smaller battery and lead acid is still very cheap.
          Having grid backup is dependent on how you value electricity availability. I have spent about 20 years designing and installing UPS and backup diesel systems for high end users who were happy to pay the premiums for 99.999% availability.

  6. Trumpzilla 3 years ago

    What happens to Gladys’ motorway madness when we all get around in autonomous car-pool convoys, so that even using one lane rat runs will be efficient (cars will coordinate seamless inter-leaved crossings)…?

    • Alex Hromas 3 years ago

      We will have to rip most of them up for communal gardens and grow magic mushrooms in the tunnels

    • MaxG 3 years ago

      Yes, this happens a lot as people are usually not systems thinkers… and then there is the lack of foresight…

  7. Guy Stewart 3 years ago

    “The availability of Tesla’s solar tiles for roofs is the harbinger of the various announcements we should expect in 2018 – including more road surface trials and see through solar glass products to the 3d printing of solar product …. And perhaps some decent amount of solar glass on cars.”

    Seriously? These mostly debunked gimmicks are so far from the enormous momentum of the silicon solar cell and lithium battery.

    The ‘boring’ tech of the past 5 years with their now billions of dollars of manufacturing investment, marketing and distribution channels and consumer and utility demand are what is going to make this change.

    Solar windows and roadways will remain a niche that appeals to those that don’t understand the massive inherent engineering problems that have already been overcome with those products already in the market. Now it’s the price reductions and competitive advantage of those that are taking control of their energy costs that will drive the transformation.

    • Jo 3 years ago

      I could not agree more. And unfortunately pointing to immature gimmicks is a disservice to renewable energy. I understood that, when a neighbour told me, that he would not install solar panels because he is looking forward to purchase a bucket of solar paint from Bunnings soon that he can point on his roof instead.

      • Greg Hudson 3 years ago

        He may not be as dumb as you think. As long as the paint is WHITE (i.e. reflective) you could call it ‘solar’ IMO

    • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

      “Solar freakin roadways” marked peak hype. But I would underestimate Tesla’s solar tiles. If they can get costs on parity for new roofs with clay or slate tiles plus PV as they claim they are seriohsly in the money. Plus bonus roof area you would bother with using panels.

      • Lightfoot 3 years ago

        Metal roofing is far stronger and more durable than any tile. If I buy a house with roof tiles of any type, I will replace the roof before installing my solar panels. I predict Tesla solar shingles will not become popular in Australia. Most predictions in the article are out of sync with observable trends, and far too ambitious. “new installs [of solar+batteries] will start to outstrip solar-only installations over the course of 2018” -> This unrealistic prediction is at least 4 years ahead of reality! Surely other Installers picked up on that as well?
        In 2018, I will continue installing 5-6 Solar only installs a week, and barely 20% are getting a decent monitoring front end. That’s only monitoring, I don’t see any quality fully fledged ‘smart energy management’ happening, that sort of gear is non existent around here.

        The main reason Australia has a booming rooftop solar market, is the payback period – cheap installs and high grid prices. We aren’t silly, we know a good thing when we see it. You want to add 30%- 50% to the base price for a relatively exotic energy management system, go right ahead, but it will not be mainstream for some time, and may not be on the radar, for most consumers.

  8. Roger Franklin 3 years ago

    2017 has certainly been the “Year of the Battery”.

    We started the year with “Standards Australia” trying to introduce standards that would effectively ban batteries and here we are at the end of the year talking about how batteries are (and will) change the way the Power Grid is managed and operated, in fact they have been and will continue to change the way the world operates – from mobile devices to vehicles, and the list keeps growing!

    To Standards Australia – shame on you for clearly allowing one or more lobby groups to influence you in a way that honestly brought the relevance of your organisation into question. What a shame as you have done great work in the past – lets hope history will judge you as supporting innovation and not lobby groups.

  9. Alastair Leith 3 years ago

    I asked Ray Wills at a presentation he made at Curtin Uni this year to Innovation Australia (which started as an oil and gas innovation hub) given his point that most innovation is driven by Govt policy raher than private sector (~90% iirc) what state and federal govts could do in this country to drive stronger uptake of RE and innovative manufacturing of battery storage in particular. His reply was” ‘given that the previous week our fed govt had decided to close a research centre in Antartica’ the new “probably nothing”. ‘In Australia we fail to lead in anything these days’.

    I’d suggest that our innovation at Australian universities like ANI and UNSW contributed greatly to the Chinese PV manufacturing boom (I’m sure Ray Wills knows this and might have even shared that observation too) and that came out of a policy direction for acedemic funding. There are many things state and federal govts have and could do to break to back of the fossil fuel mafia in Australia and their lockdown on energy policy at the federal and state govt levels in some states (hello WA).

    Now Prof Wills has an interest in battery manufacturing in Australia (initially for domestic but also export consumption perhaps) he do well to start advocating for less liaise fare govt non-interventionist policy in his home state and for some serious policy innovation with spine like we’ve seen in from labor Govt said in ACT, VIC and SA (and possibly add QLD to that list in the near future)

  10. Arvo Kukko 3 years ago

    Well, when journalists talk about kW and kWh you (either them) never know what they really mean. When professionals /engineers talk about the same things, tehy don`t have to describe the meaning to each other. That`s why discussion between these people isn`t easy – or is just impossible.

  11. Morph3us 3 years ago

    So in a way, Two Tongues Turnbull and his COALition of yes men are largely irrelevant. The Australian public and local industries are driving the energy market by choosing to invest in renewables at an unprecedented rate. Leadership is in the hands of the people while the government sits there, contemplating its navel.
    Trump also, the “stable genius” he so clearly is not, is putting the US on the wrong side of history by backing out of the Paris accord. Because he is so, you know, like, really smart.
    I am currently installing 6.5kW of panels even though I only use 5.5kWh/day. Why? The future. Its called looking to the future. Something Trumpbull should return to doing.

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