Energy storage has been a hot topic over recent years, with the technological developments in battery storage considered a way to make renewable power more reliable and affordable. With an abundance of battery minerals, materials and technologies at our fingertips, Australia has an important role when it comes to developing and implementing energy storage options, and has initiated a range of exciting storage strategies and projects in various states.

The number of battery storage projects continues to grow across the country as technologies develop and the availability, functionality and cost of many forms of energy storage technology improves.

Batteries are supporting the increased uptake of renewable energy while also delivering increased reliability and security to the grid. At the end of 2018, the 100MW Hornsdale Power Reserve — famously delivered in less than 100 days in 2017 by Tesla — was still the largest in the world, and a growing number of industrial-sized batteries were completed across Australia.

The benefits of utility-scale batteries were clearly demonstrated by the Hornsdale Power Reserve in 2018, which was found to have reduced frequency control ancillary services costs by up to $50 million. These cost reductions could be even greater if the rules of the National Electricity Market are changed to support fast frequency response.

In November 2018, Federal Labor announced that it will fund a Household Battery Program to support 100,000 new battery installations if it is elected in 2019.

The Battery Safety Guide, developed by the Clean Energy Council with a number of other industry groups, recognises the need to safely manage this growing industry. The guide provides a minimum level of electrical safety criteria for lithium-based battery energy storage equipment. It is supported by the Clean Energy Council’s Battery Assurance Program, which provides consumers with a list of energy storage devices that meet industry best practice standards.

It is not all about batteries though. Pumped hydro is a proven technology for storing large-scale clean energy and provides around 96 per cent of total worldwide storage capacity. Wind and solar power are predicted to dominate Australia’s energy future, which means a variety of energy storage options will be crucial in helping balance these intermittent sources of generation.

The storage strategies, projects and initiatives being undertaken in Australia have been propelled by the natural resources available on our doorstep, and here we take a look at the storage developments in each state.

Queensland

Queensland has seen considerable interest in the energy storage space, with a solar battery loan scheme seeing a large uptake at the end of 2018.

The scheme offers household owners interest-free loans of up to $10,000 and grants of $3000 to purchase batteries or combined solar-battery systems, with a $3000 grant also open to businesses.

An impressive 1200 applications were lodged as of December 2018 for the original 1500 packages, and another 1000 packages were made available soon after.

According to the Queensland Minister for Energy, Dr Anthony Lynham, the scheme is about assisting Queenslanders in reducing both bills and emissions as the state looks towards a renewable future.

“This response has yet again highlighted Queenslanders’ thirst for the savings and environmental benefits of renewable energy,” Dr Lynham said.

The scheme could help households to save up to $400 a year, even after taking into account their interest-free loan repayments.

Queensland is also home to the world’s first integrated solar pumped hydro project, the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub, which is being constructed by Genex in Far-North Queensland and is considered by the State Government to be “critical infrastructure”.

When complete, the hub will comprise a 50MW solar farm (known as KS1), a multi-staged 270MW integrated solar farm (K2-Solar), the 250MW hydro project (K2-Hydro) and a 150MW Stage 3 wind project (K3-Wind).

New South Wales

New South Wales has also seen a considerable uptake of energy storage systems, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) announcement of a $10.6 million renewable energy generation system at the Bondi pumping station. It features 6kW of solar panels, an energy management system and a temporary lithium-ion battery pack.

The lithium-ion batteries will be used for a period of one year to test the energy management system before a transition to sodium-ion batteries, as the first batches of the batteries are received from industry partners in China.

The project has been led by energy storage researchers from the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM), with the sodium-ion batteries believed to be comparable in performance to marketplace alternatives, as well as being cheaper, modular and expandable.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said, “Part of ARENA’s role is to deliver secure and reliable electricity, and battery technology will play a major role in allowing variable renewable energy to be dispatchable.”

“Thanks to the contribution of world-leading researchers from the University of Wollongong, these relatively inexpensive and reliable sodium-ion batteries aren’t too far off, potentially reducing our reliance on lithium.

“We’re always excited to support significant research and development which shows promising commercialisation prospects as the novel sodium-ion technology will assist in the faster uptake of renewable and innovative storage solutions for Australia.”

After two years of feasibility studies, Snowy 2.0 was officially approved by the Snowy Hydro board in December 2018 and the Federal Government in February 2019. Upon completion, the project will increase the capacity of the iconic Snowy Hydro Scheme by 2000MW and provide up to 350,000MWh of large-scale energy storage to the National Electricity Market.

Northern Territory

Energy storage systems are an important aspect of the Northern Territory Government’s target of reaching 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, and as such, the government-owned corporation Territory Generation funded an $8.3 million 5MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in Alice Springs in late 2018.

The battery is expected to provide cost-effective electricity for those living and running businesses in the Northern Territory, and is one of the largest grid-connected storage solutions in the country. It’s expected that the investment will be paid back within an impressive four to five year period due to efficiency improvements.

South Australia

South Australia has played an integral role in Australia’s position as a global leader in energy storage, with the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery — officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve — built by Tesla in 2017. According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), the battery is outperforming coal and gas generators on some key measures.

South Australia’s second grid-scale energy storage system, the 30MW/8MWh big battery at the Dalrymple substation on the state’s Yorke Peninsula, was installed in April 2018 and commenced operations in January 2019. The battery, which received $12 million in funding from ARENA, was developed and is owned by transmission provider ElectraNet — owners of the substation — and will be operated by AGL Energy under a long-term lease agreement.

Another large-scale storage project announced in the state in 2018 included Infigen Energy’s $38 million lithium-ion battery energy storage system. The 25MW/52MWh battery at Lake Bonney Wind Farm in South Australia’s south-east was supported by the State Government and ARENA.

In September 2018, the green light was given to German energy storage giant Sonnen to begin assembling and manufacturing its world-leading home battery technology in Adelaide, creating around 430 manufacturing and installation jobs. The government also launched the $50 million Grid Scale Storage Fund to accelerate investment in utility-scale energy storage in the state.

Energy storage strategies in South Australia have also focused on home battery installation, with over 100 new batteries being installed as part of the South Australian Government’s $100 million Home Battery Scheme, and a further 500 houses in line for installation.

As part of the scheme, participating households have access to grants of up to $6000 each. The State Government’s subsidy was matched by up to $100 million in finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will provide low-interest loans for the balance of the battery and new solar if required.

SA Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, said, “We’re delighted with the high level of interest shown in the Marshall Government’s Home Battery Scheme, which will save hardworking South Australians thousands of dollars on their electricity bills.”

“Ultimately, this scheme will benefit all South Australians, and as more home batteries reduce total demand on the network we can look forward to lower prices for all households.”

Tasmania

In Tasmania, the Battery of the Nation project continues to inch closer to reality, with 14 sites examined by Hydro Tasmania for pumped hydro capability. The pumped hydro developments would run in conjunction with wind power, which would see water pumped uphill at times when demand is low and then released to produce electricity at peak periods. ARENA has supported the initiative with up to $5 million funding for feasibility studies, which is being matched by Hydro Tasmania.

Victoria

In March 2018, on behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA committed $25 million to two grid-connected, utility-scale batteries in Victoria, matching the $25 million committed by the Victorian Government as part of its $50 million energy storage initiative.

The 30MW/30MWh Ballarat Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) is owned by AusNet Services and operated by EnergyAustralia. BESS has been built at AusNet Services’ Ballarat terminal substation, where it will help deliver critical supply and grid stability and security in a constrained and congested area of the network — avoiding the need for further network investment.

The second large-scale battery is the 25MW/50MWh Gannawarra battery system, which is co-located at the 60MW Gannawarra Solar Farm near Kerang. The Gannawarra battery is owned by Edify and Wirsol and was supplied by Tesla, and will also be operated by EnergyAustralia under a long-term offtake agreement.

Western Australia

Western Australia has a unique opportunity to become a central player in the global battery value chain, with some of the country’s most sought after energy storage resources making it possible for the state to become a leading exporter of future battery minerals and materials.

In early 2019, the State Government announced the Western Australian Battery Industry Strategy, which is a collaboration between government, industry, research organisations and the community to ‘unlock’ the state’s potential in the growing storage sector.

One of the strategy’s first initiatives has been the development and implementation of an investment attraction strategy. This will develop and strengthen relationships with investors and manufacturers in the global battery and electric vehicle supply chains.

The next steps for the Western Australian Government include closing the current and future skill gaps in energy storage, and facilitating access to infrastructure and funding for technology.

The strategy will also explore initiatives to increase the uptake of batteries, both in Australia and around the world. This could include opportunities through assembly, installation and management of energy storage systems.

State Premier, Mark McGowan, said that the unprecedented growth of the future battery industry represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the state.

“Our Future Battery Industry Strategy will drive the development of the Western Australian battery materials industry that will create local jobs, contribute to skills development and economic diversification, and maximise benefits to regional communities,” Mr McGowan said.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Western Australia to be recognised as a world-leading producer and exporter of future battery materials, technologies and expertise, with huge potential for industry growth and job creation across the battery value chain.”

Alongside this critical strategy, a bid has been made for a Future Batteries Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to be headquartered in Perth.

The State Government will invest $5.5 million through the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia and $500,000 from the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.

Western Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister, Bill Johnston, said, “As the nation’s one-stop shop for battery materials, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, vanadium, graphite and rare earth elements, Western Australia is well-placed to host a battery industries CRC.”

The future of energy storage in Australia

With energy storage expected to transform the ways that Australia uses energy in the future, Australian consumers will see increased access to flexible, reliable and efficient energy.

The strategies and projects being undertaken in each state will allow Australians to take greater control of their power use, while improving the security and reliability of the grid.

India Murphy

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