The use of renewable energy requires effective and innovative solutions that will make its use feasible and sustainable. One of the strategies being put under consideration is the use of lithium-ion batteries for grid-scale storage. Australia has been one of the countries that is seeking green energy solutions. It is in this light that the Australian Renewable Agency (ARENA) sought to ran a trial to investigate if lithium-ion batteries would enhance electricity grids.
Field Trials for Battery Energy Storage Begin in Australia
ARENA commissioned the study to IT Power- an energy efficiency consulting company which is competent and well versed with the various dynamics shaping the renewable energy landscape. ITP is appropriate to carry out the trials because it has executed successful projects in off-grid power systems, designing grid-connected renewable power systems, development of micro-finance models related to renewable energy, and has shaped government policy.
The methodology that ITP will adopt requires that the firm carry out an extensive analysis of the performance of lithium-ion batteries. It will compare them to the existing lead-acid technologies in order to explore how they perform in both small and large electricity grids and therefore give the way forward.
The trial will be funded by ARENA at the tune of $ 450,000. It will ran for a period of three years until July 2018. The test facility will be built at the Canberra Institute of Technology.
The fact that the research operations will be carried out in a controlled environment translates to a better understanding of the subject matter. For example, the investigation will assess the decrease in the storage capacity of the batteries and their compatibility with various renewable generation technologies. The trials will also encompass the component of knowledge sharing in line with ARENA’s policy of knowledge sharing. This will be effected through sharing the findings with the key players in the energy industry such as power companies, researchers, and investors.
Importance of Energy Storage
Key players in the energy industry have evaluated the significance of energy storage in general and the ITP trials in particular. First, whereas there is a different in opinion, there is a broad consensus that trials will be a defining factor in assessing the efficacy of batteries in their ability to integrate to the electricity network. In particular, Australia’s network operators can use the stored electricity in order to meet electricity demand at peak times.
Second, households will be able to choose cheaper rooftop solar options. This is because there is high expectation that storage technologies based on lithium-oil batteries will be cheaper in the future.
Ivor Frischknecht, the CEO of ARENA, says:
Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly used in electric vehicles and consumer electronics, giving them a great potential for future cost reduction compared to other storage technologies.
Lastly, the trials will give opportunities in joining and having a commercial opportunities in electricity and thus increase the availability of electricity to Australian consumers. By extension, areas with heavy demand for power such as the mining zones will have a viable alternative. The emergence of low cost on grid technologies will lead to a transformation of the renewable energy market.
Australia has set the pace in adoption of renewable energy practices globally. It is time that other countries emulated its strategies in the formulation of a sound and sustainable renewable energy policy. The lithium-ion trials will offer the country a profound learning opportunity as far as the use of renewable energy is concerned. The time between now and the release of the findings will be a time of speculation and suspense. Whatever the outcome of the trials, Australia will emerge a better country in terms of energy use and efficiency.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.