Sydney research hub to accelerate energy storage technologies | RenewEconomy

Sydney research hub to accelerate energy storage technologies

Education minister launches UNSW research hub to accelerate energy storage technologies, saying smelters need to be powered 100% by renewables.


The University of New South Wales will host a new research hub that will seek to accelerate the development of new energy storage technologies, and coordinate the efforts of leading Australian researchers in battery, fuel-cell and power-to-gas technologies.

The research hub is being supported by $3 million in funding provided under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Hub for Integrated Energy Storage Solutions. An additional $8.7 million has been provided through a partnership across 14 organisations involved in the hub, including UNSW, the University of Technology Sydney and Deakin University as well as industry partners including Goldwind.

The research partners will co-operate on the development of new energy storage technologies, identifying both the immediate and long-term needs for energy storage in a global energy system transitioning to renewable energy sources.

Federal education minister Dan Tehan, who attended the official opening of the research hub in Sydney on Thursday, said that it was crucial that research efforts be supported that will bring new storage technologies to market.

“We need cheap, reliable energy to keep household energy bills low and keep our industries globally competitive,” Tehan said. “The research conducted at this hub will drive more secure, sustainable and economically efficient energy usage through the use of more effective storage devices and advanced technologies.

“It will also create novel battery technologies to meet the rapidly growing need for electric vehicles, and battery services for the electricity grid.”

“Importantly, this research hub will bring together experts from universities and industry to work together to develop new, commercially-viable methods to capture surplus electricity from Australia’s abundant renewable resources,” Tehan added.

Tehan said the research being undertaken to develop energy storage technologies was of particular interest to this own electorate in western Victoria, which is host to some of Australia’s largest wind farms as well as the Portland aluminium smelter.

“My electorate of Wannon is a renewable energy powerhouse. But also runs one of the largest aluminium smelters in the country and that aluminium smelter uses five or ten per cent of Victoria’s electricity,” Tehan said at the launch of the research hub.

“Now already, that smelter is powered by 33 per cent renewable energy. But what we need to be able to do is transition to a way we can operate successfully on 100% renewable. And the only way we’re going to be able to do that is through making sure that we’ve got energy storage solutions.”

The Portland smelter, which is located around 70 kilometres from the Victorian border with South Australia was recently caught by the recent islanding of the South Australian electricity grid after transmission lines connecting the two states were damaged.

The education minister hoped that the energy storage research hub was up for the challenge of finding solutions that would strengthen electricity supplies in both South Australia and Victoria.

“We have a large undertaking ahead of us, but it is with the best minds and the right approach that we will be able to do it, in particular, with industry collaboration. So, without putting any pressure on this enterprise, there are about 3,000 jobs in my electorate that need you to come up with the solution.” Tehan said.

“It will be a solution that I’ll be watching and anticipating. And my hope is that you’ll be able to really progress the transition that our economy needs to take, but one we need to take the right way by ensuring we take jobs and industries with us.”

The new hub will drive research across a range of energy storage technologies, including short term storage devices including supercapacitors and battery storage systems, through to longer-term storage technologies and system optimisation platforms.

The hub will also progress research into hydrogen technologies, including fuel-cell improvements and power-to-gas conversion technologies.

The power-to-gas research within the hub is being led by the UNSW’s scientia professor Rose Amal, who was recently named the 2019 NSW Scientist of the Year, and whose research has focused on improving the production of hydrogen fuels from solar energy.

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