Canberra, Australia will be host to a new storage trial which will examine whether lithium-ion batteries could improve electricity grids and increase the usage of renewable energy.
Lithium-ion batteries undergo three-year testing
IT Power (ITP) will carry out the trial, supported by US$355,000 (AUD$450,000) of Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding. ITP will compare the brands to existing and advanced lead-acid battery technologies to investigate how they could operate in large and small electricity grids.
The trial will test six major lithium-ion battery brands – including, potentially, Tesla’s new Powerwall product – alongside an ‘advanced’ lead-acid battery and a conventional lead-acid battery. [Engerati-Tesla Batteries Trial In US.] A major objective of the trial is to measure the batteries’ decrease in storage capacity over time and their compatibility with a range of renewable generation technologies.
The tests will be carried out at the Canberra Institute of Technology over three years, and will monitor battery performances in hot daytime and cool overnight temperatures. The idea is to simulate what these batteries would experience in real-world conditions.
Each battery will be cycled (charged and discharged) several times per day, albeit within the manufacturer’s specifications, in order to produce informative test results within three years.
The aim of the trial is to assist investors in making an informed decision with regards to energy storage options ahead of the expected energy storage boom.
Lithium-ion batteries in Australia
According to ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht, it is not known whether lithium-ion batteries could work in Australia with its hot environment and high uptake of rooftop solar.
Says Frischknecht, “For a large project they would go to tender… they are going to find the best solution at the best price for their application, but that’s not going to be quite so easy for an individual homeowner. So part of the outcome we hope to achieve from this is to provide information for the general public as to what sort of solutions will work best for them.”
He adds, “Storage is important for allowing more renewable energy to be used in Australia on-grid and off-grid by smoothing out energy supply. Power companies could, for example, consider renewable energy based mini-grids with storage as an alternative to maintaining sections of the main grid that currently run at a loss. The testing in a controlled environment would result in a greater understanding of various storage technologies and how they can best be adopted as they begin to compete with lead-acid batteries on cost and reliability.”
Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly used in electric vehicles and consumer electronics, giving them great potential for future cost reductions compared to other storage technologies.
According to IT Power, several battery types have already been shortlisted on the basis that they are both commercially available and cover a spectrum of prices and battery chemistry variants within the lithium-ion family.
IT Power aims to publish a preliminary set of results (raw data) and detailed analysis every six months, describing the technical performance and cost-effectiveness of each battery type/brand. The company aims to build on this research by adding more battery solutions to the trial, which is scheduled for completion in 2018.