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AES 2018: a showcase of energy storage technologies

The fifth edition of the Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition (AES) saw more than 60 companies in the energy storage industry exhibit their newest technologies.
The conference sessions during the event revolved around the latest developments in lithium batteries, flow batteries, hydrogen, silicon thermal storage, compressed air storage, flywheel energy storage, inverters, lead acid batteries, pumped hydro, hybrid system providers and energy management.

This was the first time the event was being held in Adelaide. The attendees had an opportunity to take part in tours prior to the main event to explore commercial and utility storage facilities in and around the city. This included Tesla’s big battery located at Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm and the Highbury Pumped Hydro Energy Storage installation north east of Adelaide.

A dominant message in the conference was the need to prepare Australia for the inevitable transition to renewable energy and the available solutions to do so in the most sustainable way.

Sanjeev Gupta, chairman of the GFG Alliance and majority shareholder of SIMEC ZEN Energy, delivered the AES keynote presentation, which touched on his company’s investment plans in various sectors in Australia. This included more mining acquisitions, establishing a bank for the mid-corporate companies and expanding its scrap steel and scrap aluminium recycling businesses (Green Steel and Green Aluminium).

He also confirmed plans by his company to enter electric car manufacturing in Australia and hinted at future plans to step into lithium battery production and recycling sectors.
Noting that energy is a considerable cost in all of his company’s present and future businesses, Gupta said the GFG Alliance was taking charge of its energy costs through investments in renewable energy generation and storage solutions.

On the generation side, while Gupta’s company had earlier committed to building 1GW of large-scale solar plus storage in and around Whyalla in South Australia, he said GFG’s investments in renewable energy across Australia could increase to as much as 10GW – keeping in line with the company’s industrial growth.

In a conversation with PACE, he encouraged manufacturers in all sectors to look for renewable energy solutions for long-term benefits to their businesses.

“If you have a warehouse that is processing goods, you can easily apply roof-top solars and batteries. The key is to bring the cost of these things down. At the moment, the costs are quite high, and one of the reasons is the cost of finance and how long it takes to amortise it, because many businesses cannot, or will not, amortise these plants over a long period. They want to pay them back in much shorter periods,” he said.

While admitting that not all companies can follow suit with GFG Alliance’s integrated model to generate their own renewable energy, he recommended that companies look for energy generators who can offer renewable energy at competitive rates. An example was GFG Alliance’s recent deal with Neoen to supply power to the Laverton steel works in Victoria.

“Where some other company has a cheap form of generation, we buy from them. It all depends on what is the best opportunity available,” he said.

Small-scale flow batteries as a sustainable solution
Sustainable energy storage solutions were a focus of the AES conference sessions. Simon Hackett, non-executive director and technology evangelist for Redflow Limited, highlighted the merits of adopting flow batteries, which are constructed from recyclable or reusable components.

Flow batteries offer benefits over traditional battery chemistries – such as lead-acid and lithium-based batteries – by providing 100 per cent daily depth of discharge and retaining their full energy storage capacity throughout their warranted life.

Redflow offers ZBM2 (Zinc Bromide Module) flow batteries for telecommunications, commercial, industrial and grid-scale applications, and ZCell for home energy storage.
While flow batteries have been used for years in large-scale applications, such as to power telecommunication towers in remote locations, Hackett said Redflow was the first company to introduce flow batteries in a scalable, small-scale format for commercial and residential applications.

“This is the only flow battery you can get in through the door,” Hackett told PACE.
But the small size does not mean limitations in storage capacity, as Redflow’s batteries can be arrayed in any number of configurations to meet the required storage capacity.  An example of this is demonstrated by Redflow at its “battery lab” in Adelaide, where an array of 60 Redflow ZBM3 batteries are installed in a container-sized unit, creating the capacity to store 660kWh of energy.

Redflow recently moved its production from Mexico to Thailand, enabling the company to supply its flow batteries at predictable quantities across Australia and in key markets across Africa, Asia Pacific and Australasia.

Victron Energy introduces new battery inverter-charger
Another exhibitor was Victron Energy, which showcased its latest battery inverter-charger, the MultiPlus-II.

The MultiPlus-II is a 48-volt inverter-charger that connects with a range of energy storage systems, from lead-acid and lithium-based batteries to zinc-bromine flow batteries. The unit is easier to install than earlier models with AC connections accessible via a single plate on its base. The 18kg MultiPlus-II draws 11W of standby power, less than half that used by the model it supersedes.

Victron Energy sales manager, Philip Crotty, told PACE that the MultiPlus-II converters use old, long-proven design methodology, but offer the device at a competitive cost through adoption of modern manufacturing methods and new components.

“We have designed this model specifically for on-grid energy storage systems, but it can also be used in off-grid and micro grid connections,” he said.

As with all Victron inverter-chargers, the MultiPlus-II is a transformer-based system, which can immediately deliver backup power if the grid drops out. This includes start-up supply for high-demand devices such as air conditioners and freezers. Another popular application, according to Crotty, is in optimising the work of diesel generators.

“Diesel generators are used in many remote sites, such as mining applications,” said Crotty. “The diesel generators are built for the maximum load, but quite often the load is way below the maximum.  In this situation, the efficiency is very low and it causes quicker wear-out.

“If you have a battery, instead of running the generator 24-hours a day, you can run it for two to three hours a day at peak efficiency and fill up the battery. And then, those variable loads can be taken out of the battery,” he said.
The MultiPlus-II has optional internet-enabled remote monitoring, both through a secure Victron portal or authenticated third-party applications. This remote monitoring enables the 24/7 performance logging of connected batteries.

Other exhibitors launched new products, allowing delegates to be the first to see ground-breaking technologies in the market. Tesla showcased its Powerwall 2 battery storage, while ESS featured its iron flow battery system.

Delta Energy Systems, who are in the switching power supply solutions space, displayed its Electric Vehicle charging products, while Mitsubishi Motors Australia was present with its Super-Select 4WD system, Australia’s first mass produced electric vehicle and the world’s first plug-in hybrid electric SUV.

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