Batteries to energise hottest, most remote communities

Some of the most isolated and remote communities in the world may benefit from groundbreaking trials of novel battery technology that could work best for those living with extreme heat.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency on Monday announced trials of long-duration energy storage (LDES) batteries to support emissions reduction and make renewable energy more accessible for remote and regional customers.

Western Australian energy provider Horizon Power will test two novel battery technologies in locations that are usually dependent on costly diesel for generators.

Horizon spans the largest geographical area of any Australian energy provider, including a system in the Pilbara, three interconnected systems in Kununurra, Wyndham and Lake Argyle, and dozens of microgrids in far-flung communities.

The ability of two types of battery technology to shift more rooftop solar electricity generated in the middle of the day to peak evening hours will be checked, as well as their performance alongside lithium-ion batteries.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the trials would establish new forms of energy storage and, if successful, would also help Horizon roll out energy management systems across 34 regional areas by the end of the year.

“The WA battery trials will help ensure reliable, affordable energy in the long term for hundreds of thousands of Australians living off grid,” he said.

Horizon will install a Redflow zinc-bromine flow battery (100 kilowatt/ 400 kW/hour) on a microgrid in Nullagine and BASF’s molten salt battery (250 kW/ 1450 kWh) in Carnarvon.

BASF’s sodium sulphur battery in Carnarvon will be the first of its kind in Australia to connect to a regulated network, and will be supplied and installed by Allset Energy.

“Our latest trials will continue our exploration of LDES technologies which are suitable for withstanding the extreme temperatures of our regions,” Horizon chief executive Stephanie Unwin said.

Redflow chief executive Tim Harris said it was vital that utility networks gain experience with operating the batteries, given Australia’s huge energy storage requirements and need for equipment that can withstand extreme heat.

Redflow will supply and install two of the non-flammable units, power conditioning equipment and control systems, and will partner with a local service provider for the build and commissioning, with deployment expected in late 2024.

Looking for new ways to bolster an increasingly renewable-powered grid, Horizon was the first Australian energy utility to purchase a vanadium flow battery in 2023 for a long-duration energy storage pilot in Kununurra.

The separate pilot with Australian Vanadium Ltd’s subsidiary VSUN Energy also brings the potential for high levels of local content when coupled with WA-made vanadium electrolyte.

ARENA said the ability of the novel batteries to withstand higher temperatures over long periods while maintaining reliable power could prove to be a significant advantage.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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