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UltraBattery energy storage technology puts wind in sails of renewable energy market

A research project is underway near the Blue Mountains in NSW could change the way the world uses renewable energy and position Australia as a front-runner in race to develop clean energy.

Australian energy storage solution company Ecoult is conducting the ‘wind smoothing’ research at Hampton Wind Farm just two hours away from Sydney. The Hampton Project is one of the largest energy storage research initiatives in the southern hemisphere.

The project is applying Ecoult’s UltraBattery energy storage technology and trialing smart algorithms which utilise weather pattern history to prepare the storage system in advance for weather conditions, maximising the potential of the storage system and making it more economical.

Ecoult’s CEO John Wood explained that the project will have an impact on how easily wind, as well as other renewable energies, are harnessed and adopted commercially worldwide – starting in Australia.

“Wind energy is a very attractive alternative to burning fossil fuels as it is a clean option with the potential to supply many times the total current global energy consumption,” Wood said.

“Although wind energy is reasonably predictable, it is significantly variable. This presents a major hurdle to integrating it into the regular electrical grid to be accessed by the public.

“The way to overcome the challenge of variability is to smooth fluctuations in the generation of energy (called ramp rates), ensuring a more useful supply of power is presented to the grid by moderating the inevitable peaks and troughs in wind output. Further, to an appropriate extend the energy can be shifted from when it is able to be produced and stored for future retrieval using the UltraBattery storage system.”

Ecoult’s Hampton Project has been designed to make integration of renewable energies easier and to support higher proportions of renewable energy.

“The over-arching objective of this research is to achieve higher penetration of wind and renewable energy in grid systems so eventually we can transition to a renewable energy based economy,” Wood said.

“Already, we have achieved a superior reduction in the ramp rate through integrating a megawatt scale smoothing system using UltraBattery technology, limiting the five minute ramp rate to 1/10 of the raw output while applying storage with a usable capacity (in kWh’s) 1/10 the rated output of the farm (in kW).

One of the smart algorithms being trialed by Ecoult and their research partner CSIRO is a meta-heuristic search method involving quantum particle swarm optimisation. This is a tool used to chart chaos – like changing weather patterns – and model randomness. In this case, the algorithm predicts how much electricity will be generated more accurately and prepares the storage system for it.

“Developing more intelligent ways of operating the storage systems using algorithms which are adaptive to weather inputs will minimise degradation of the storage asset, and in doing so, maximize economic returns from the use of storage.”

Ecoult has placed an emphasis on making their technology cost-effective to increase the rate at which it is taken up by large-scale renewable energy firms around the world.

“When used for applications where power is cycled in a partial state of charge band, meaning the battery is never fully charged nor fully depleted, our UltraBattery has proven to exhibit extraordinary endurance and longevity.

“Building on these key differentiators, we’re now focusing on reducing the cost of each MWh of storage and using intelligent algorithms to deliver growth in the storage industry and support higher penetration of renewables.

“Through the Hampton Project, Ecoult has taken energy storage for renewable variability management significantly closer to ‘ordinary’ – making it more cost effective and simple to deploy, maintain and recycle.”

The Hampton Project has received funding from the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Climate Change in NSW and was given a grant from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

Ecoult’s exploration into renewable energy storage is supported by corporate, government and research partners, including US-based parent East Penn Manufacturing who produce the energy storage devices.

In Australia, Ecoult has a research partnership with CSIRO which is also bolstered by a technology alliance with Furukawa Battery in Japan who worked with the CSIRO in the development of the UltraBattery solution.

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