Australian “hot climate” lithium-ion energy storage hopeful Energy Renaissance has won federal government backing for its plans to become the nation’s first utility-scale battery manufacturer.
Energy Renaissance said on Friday that it had received a co-funded grant from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), including matched financial contributions of $246,625 towards a project goal of making batteries for Australia and export to Southeast Asia.
The grant will also be used to design an automated production line using robotics and automated quality control systems to increase efficiencies across Energy Renaissance’s planned manufacturing facility.
The company has been developing plans to build Australia’s first battery “gigafactory” in Australia since 2017, when it looked like a deal had been struck with the Northern Territory government to establish a starter factory in Darwin.
That deal ultimately fell through, Energy Renaissance said, when an agreement couldn’t be reached that satisfied both parties.
“Our experience with the NT government was excellent, we remain strong supporters of the Territory and do not discount the possibility of developing a Renaissance facility in the NT in the future,” the company said in a statement.
And while Darwin is off the table, the company’s plan remains in tact: To start with an initial 60MWh per annum battery manufacturing plant and then grow this to a 5.3GWh/annum operation over potentially three sites.
Energy Renaissance managing director Mark Chilcote says the revised location for the company’s first manufacturing facility in Australia will be announced in a matter of weeks.
“We’re talking and continue to talk to several state governments about the location of the factory. So we haven’t quite landed on that, but it’s imminent,” Chilcote told RenewEconomy in an interview on Friday.
Meanwhile, Energy Renaissance is working with the CSIRO and partners Cadenza Innovation and Wuxi LEAD on projects including research and development to re-design components for its battery energy storage systems.
“The cleantech manufacturing industry has the potential to lead Australia’s economic recovery post-Covid-19,” said Chilcote in a statement.
“By partnering with AMGC, Energy Renaissance will advance local battery manufacturing capabilities, create jobs in Australia and build significant economic benefits for our lithium-ion battery materials industry through a local supply chain.”
AMGC’s managing director, Dr Jens Goennemann said Australia had an opportunity to lead the world in the energy transition while adding value to its abundant natural resources.
“It was this ability we identified some time ago with Energy Renaissance and its manufacturing aspirations,” Goennemann said.
“Energy Renaissance’s hot-climate battery technology has numerous applications across multiple sectors including energy, defence, commercial and industrial – both domestically and abroad.
“They are an example of how Australia’s advanced manufacturing industry is developing world-leading solutions.”
Chilcote says one of the company’s key advantages in the market is that its nickel-based battery cells were “chemistry agnostic,” depending on the application.
“The race on li-ion batteries is all around energy density,” he told RE. “Actual battery cost won’t come down significantly, but the cost per kilowatt-hour will, due to huge increase in energy density – and that’s around nickel.”
So far, Energy Renaissance has been doing a lot of work with the Department of Defence in Australia, as well as with miners and other industrial customers, on providing an energy solution that can withstand harsh environments and deliver reliable storage and back-up at an attractive cost.
He says that beyond that, the key markets for the company will be in grid stability and in storage for solar farms. That said, Chilcote says the only avenue his company won’t pursue is the passenger electric vehicle market.
“Our batteries are suited to any market, so you could put them in the special purpose vehicle market, it could be domestic, it could be commercial,” he said.
“The hot climate aspect gives it a financial benefit in those sort of climates. But they’re price competitive in any case.”
In terms of finance, Energy Renaissance has the backing of what Chilcote describes as “mainly high net worth individuals” and family funds.
“There are probably about 18 individual investors in the company that have shown us a lot of support. There is also a 15% investor in Energy Renaissance, that happened in March this year,” he said.