Jul 22, 2015 at 05:19 PM

Australia sees wide-scale energy storage potential

By Ares North America

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With big talk surrounding grid storage going on in the United States, it's Australia that is researching its effect on every aspect of the electricity grid.

Examples of deployed energy storage systems in Australia.

A new report, "Electrical Energy Storage: Technology Overview and Applications," commissioned by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) and conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, looked at how different storage technologies may be used at various parts of the electricity supply chain.

"The research will aid our understanding of the future regulatory impact of the integration of storage technologies in the National Electricity Market," AEMC said. "The project is part of the Commission's work to understand how technological change may impact the National Electricity Market and the possible regulatory implications of that change to ensure the market is flexible and resilient enough to respond."

Every aspect of the electricity supply chain is affected by advances in technology, and that, along with falling costs, means energy storage is a very real possibility for wide-scale deployment.

"While a great range of existing grid-connected energy storage technologies is discussed in popular media, a much smaller subset is commercially available now or likely to be in the near future," the report said.

The report looked at five storage technologies most likely to be important to the Australian electricity system over the next 15 years, based on numerous factors, including: technical maturity, supply chain, manufacturing and recent deployment activities. The five technologies the report found were important for the future of storage technology were: advanced lead-acid; lithium iron phosphate; lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide; zinc bromine flow; and sodium nickel chloride molten salt batteries.

The study also looked at challenges that need to be addressed before creating mass-market battery storage systems, including the effect on climate and storage technologies in Australia.

"Many storage technologies, including advanced lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries, can be significantly affected by high temperatures that could become common in warmer parts of Australia," the report said. "While air-conditioning systems may help manage battery life in large-scale deployments, they significantly affect the economics of battery deployment, and are completely inappropriate for small-scale residential energy storage."

Other challenges the report looked at was the need for more data on performance of battery technologies, in many different scenarios; the difference between residential-scale energy storage and mass-market energy storage -- including the differences in benefits to the broader electricity grid; and safety regulations and standards need to be addressed to assure wide-scale deployment of the technology.

According to the report, "Although technologies such as lead-acid batteries have standards, these do not consider the unique characteristics of other battery types and are not aimed at residential or other non-industrial deployment scenarios."

AEMC also found that distributed storage systems may offer significant benefits to consumers with intermittent energy sources. This includes 1.4 million Australian households with rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV).

"Large-scale storage systems may be used by network businesses to reduce congestion, smooth network peaks, mitigate outages or provide network support in remote areas – all of which potentially reduce the need for spending on network infrastructure, thereby reducing the cost of network services for consumers," the report said. "Storage systems connected to power stations could allow generators to better manage variations in wholesale prices between times of high and low demand, or better integrate variable generation resources like large-scale wind."

From here, the AEMC will be looking at other obstacles -- including regulations -- to energy storage, consumer protection, and any other potential opportunities or challenges. The main challenges are related to lack of real-world experience in Australia -- especially across a broad range of potential use scenarios, and differences in standards across different technologies.

"Energy storage holds great potential to benefit Australia's electricity system, and is likely to significantly affect system operation and the experiences of all stakeholders. We can predict with reasonable confidence the particular energy storage technologies that are most likely to see mass uptake over the coming years," the report said. "However, many challenges must be addressed before their full benefits will be realised. Ultimately, none of these challenges are insurmountable: the core technologies here are reasonably mature and are starting to see significant uptake in other industries or parts of the world."

No one is questioning storage's importance in the future of energy, but it will take research to make sure it is the right technology to properly maintain the electric grid supply chain.

Read the full report

Posted in ARES News.