Darwin-made, outback-tested energy storage system to be used in remote Africa | RenewEconomy

Darwin-made, outback-tested energy storage system to be used in remote Africa

A fly-wheel based energy storage system designed by ABB in Darwin, and successfully used to smooth solar supply in remote WA, will be used to smooth wind generation on a Kenya hybrid microgrid.


Energy storage technology designed in Australia’s top end is set to be used in two remote locations on opposite sides of the globe – the edge of a desert in northern Kenya, and outback Western Australia – to stabilise energy generation from wind and solar sources and minimise the use of diesel fuel.

The flywheel-based microgrid stabilisation technology, developed by ABB engineers in Darwin, is set to be installed at the Marsabit wind farm in northern Kenya, after it was ordered by the development’s owners, Socabelec East Africa.

ABB’s technology is designed to enable very high levels of wind and solar power penetration on isolated, diesel-powered grids, to ensure utility-grade power quality and grid stability, while reducing dependency on costly and polluting fossil fuels.

Marsabit, described as an oasis at the edge of the desert in a windy area of northern Kenya, is a population of 5,000 served by an isolated microgrid, whose electricity is currently supplied by diesel fuel and two 275kW wind turbines.

Kenya is trying to get most of its 50 million citizens connected to the grid and plans major investments in energy, mostly in renewables.

GE turbines being installed at Kenya’s Marsabit Wind Farm

ABB’s containerized, 500kW PowerStore system will be integrated into the existing power microgrid, with the aim of maximising wind energy penetration by stabilising the grid connection and using any excess wind energy generated. The project is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Back in Australia, Energy Matters reports that the PowerStore technology has been successfully installed at two separate locations in WA, Marble Bar and Nullagine, to maximise solar power generation and minimise the use of diesel generators.

On these projects, ABB worked with Horizon Power and SunPower Australia to install the power stations, each consisting of four 320kW diesel generators and a 300kW solar array with 2,000 solar modules installed on a single axis solar tracking system.

The fly-wheel based PowerStores – which can hold 18MWs of energy and shift from full absorption to full injection in 1 millisecond – will help stabilise the systems; protecting against fluctuations in frequency and voltage.

ABB’s Microgrid Plus technology is also in use at the power stations, to help control the network.

According to ABB, the hybrid microgrid power solution is now supplying Marble Bar and Nullagine nearly 60 per cent of their electricity through solar generation, and saving around 400,000 litres of diesel fuel annually.

ABB’s president of the company’s power systems division, Claudio Facchin, says sustainable development of Africa and fostering microgrid solutions are both key focus areas in ABB’s Next Level strategy.

“Our microgrid technology solutions can significantly boost renewable integration and can play a key role in helping isolated and remote communities to gain access to clean electricity as in this case,” he said.

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  1. Jacob 5 years ago

    Wish they would give us a photo of said Darwin made product.

      • Mark Roest 5 years ago

        Thank you!
        No load-shifting here. 12 seconds of support at maximum load.
        So it requires a generator for backup, or (unmentioned) load reduction in case of a shortage of energy. The system looks elaborate enough (hence costly) that it may make more economic sense to use batteries, when they fall below $300 per kWh within 2 to 3 years, due to Tesla et all increasing supply at low prices.

        • Bob 5 years ago

          Current lithium Ion battery technology are not well suited for this application. Depth of discharge, and frequency of discharge and recharging would negatively impact the life of the battery. The cost of lithium Ion batteries is not the obstacle. The purpose of the Powerstore flywheel in this application is for grid stabilization. It regulates the voltage and frequency of the network, and provides a sufficient buffer to fire up the diesel generators if needed. Wind and Solar power output is variable by nature, and the rapid rise and fall of the associated output need to be compensated. The Powerstore flywheel allows for higher penetration rates of renewables when available into a microgrid while minimizing the use of diesel generated power. Normally the maximum peak penetrations of wind and solar into a microgrid can approach 30% without some sort of stabilization technology. The Powerstore flywheel system can allow up to 100% peak penetration of renewables.

      • VictimsFamily 5 years ago


      • Jacob 5 years ago

        Thanks bro

  2. Horst 5 years ago

    hmmm… it’s really worth trying to understand this,
    “The fly-wheel based PowerStores – which can hold 18MWs of energy”
    is like saying the distance between Sydney and Melbourne is 150km/h.
    The Watt is a rate, the Joule (or kwh if you really have to) is the amount.
    Mass -Kg
    Distance – m
    Time – s
    acceleration = velocity/time =m/s¹ s¹ = m/s²
    Force= mass x accl =kg x m/s² = kgm/s² Newton (N)
    Energy = Force x distance = kgm/s² x m =kgm²/s² Joule (J)
    Power = Energy/time = kgm²s² / s = kgm²/s³ Watt (W)


    Other than that it’s a very interesting article.

    • Jeremy Lawrence 5 years ago

      18 MWs refers to MW-seconds, equivalent to 5 kWh.

      • Jo 5 years ago

        That’s correct.
        The author has actually been making two critical mistakes:
        a) using MW instead of MWh as unit of energy
        b) adding a plural ‘s’ to a physical unit which changed MW to MWs

        • Jo 5 years ago

          My sincere apologies to the author. I found in the links provided by Jeremy that the energy stored is indeed 18 MWs. So the ‘s’ in MWs was no plural ‘s’.
          On the other hand, what sounds so mega (MWs) is just 5 kWh, which is smaller than one Tesla battery.

          • Mathew 5 years ago

            Just to show people the working out.
            60sec x 60 mins = 3600 seconds in an hour
            18,000,000 MWs / 3600 = 5000 Wh or 5kWh

    • Gary 5 years ago

      Fly wheels are used to absorb and release large amounts of power for a short period of time – hence the use of the unusual unit.
      They are more an alternative to spinning reserve than a storage system.

      • Horst 5 years ago

        my apologies, what looked like a propriety unit to me is in fact perfectly valid, still would have preferred the Joule.

  3. VictimsFamily 5 years ago

    Couldn’t agree more, Horst.
    It is utterly infuriating reading industry articles that don’t even address fundamental quantities in correct scientific terminology.
    As an industry, I believe the Renewable Energy Sector could serve itself well by investing a little time (and dare I say it, energy) in educating the wider public about these fundamental units.
    By breeding familiarity and comfort regarding science and scientific principles will lead to a better informed public, who, in turn become more valuable advocates for Renewables.

  4. VictimsFamily 5 years ago

    My apologies also.
    I have encountered too many kW’s/MW’s in conversations referring to energy consumed/delivered (losing the critical time-base), assumed the same error, and shot my mouth off without thinking first.
    My bad. Walks away with head bowed….

  5. JonathanMaddox 5 years ago

    MWs = megawatt seconds?

  6. Tommyk82 . 5 years ago

    Don’t get too worked up comparing fly wheels to batteries, like capacitors, sometimes the goal is to store energy for just a few seconds. Think of a passing cloud or so. It’s more of a smoothing technology than a load shifting technology. Sometimes short term storage solutions can be integrated with long term solutions for an overall more robust system

    • PW 5 years ago

      Correct. Which is why the unit designator MWs is accurate and kWh is not.

  7. john 5 years ago

    Having read the comments it looks like this is a total waste of money

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