Battery Storage in Australia: A High-Tech Solution to Grid Instability

Australia has a serious energy problem on its hands: back in September of this year, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) reported that the threat of blackouts for the upcoming summer is a real cause for concern, especially in regions such as Southern Australia and Victoria.
electricity storage
According to the report, it would only take 1 unexpected outage at a major gas or coal plant to blanket the region in total darkness for several hours, putting millions of residents in harm’s way. Without electricity, much of the infrastructure that we rely upon on a day to day basis (i.e., traffic lights, telephones, computers, etc.) would become essentially useless, leaving residents in these areas without the means of getting help during an emergency.1

However, Australia’s energy situation isn’t entirely all doom and gloom: in a separate report funded Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel and the Australian Counsel of Learned Academics (ACOLA), it is stated that battery storage systems, in conjunction with high levels of renewables like wind and solar, can provide a relatively low-cost solution to grid instability.2

As a matter of fact, the Australia government, with the help of Tesla, is already investing in such systems, one of which being recently completed near Jamestown in South Australia’s Mid North region.

This 100-megawatt battery (the largest in the world) will be able to provide enough energy to power approximately 30,000 homes for more than an hour all on its own while providing additional energy during peak load times.3

To help our readers learn more, we will be discussing everything there is to know about battery storage systems, the role they will play in modernizing and stabilizing Australia’s grid infrastructure, and how LDC Infrastructure can help get your energy storage project off the ground.

What are Battery Storage Systems?

When most of us think of batteries, we usually think of those small cylindrical things we stick into our TV remote or perhaps even our car battery.

Truth be told, energy storage actually encompasses a wide range of different technologies, including the following:

Mechanical: compressed air energy storage, flywheel energy storage, hydraulic accumulator, etc...
Electrical: capacitors, superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES)
Biological: glycogen, starch
Electrochemical: flow batteries, rechargeable batteries, supercapacitors, ultrabatteries
Thermal: brick storage heaters, cryogenic liquid air or nitrogen, molten salt, etc…
Chemical: biofuels, hydrated salts, etc…

In the context of our discussion, these technologies are utilized to serve two purposes: first, to store excess energy derived from traditional energy sources (e.g., fossil fuels, natural gas, etc.) and renewables (e.g., wind, solar, hydro, etc.), and second, to provide energy during times of peak loads and blackouts.

electricity storage

The State of the Grid: Why do we need Energy Storage?

Australia’s current energy infrastructure, as is the case with most energy infrastructures around the globe, is powered by a combination of traditional and renewable energy sources.

And just like other energy infrastructures, there are some inherent limitations in the manner in which energy can be delivered.

Traditional Sources

On most days, Australia’s energy infrastructure can provide enough “base load” power to residents and businesses; however, when energy demand increases as it does during peak hours or during the hot summer months, the base load supply has to increase.

During peak load hours, energy companies usually meet demand by simply burning more fuel to increase power output, but this isn’t necessarily a perfect solution.

The price of fuel can fluctuate on a month to month basis, which means that energy companies have to estimate how much power they will need to produce on a day to day basis, and they also have to estimate what the cost of fuel associated with providing that power will be.

As you can imagine, this process can be quite difficult to get exactly right, which can lead to some power plants producing too little or too much power.

In situations where there is too little power, we get unfortunate situations like blackouts, and when there’s too much power being produced, some of it can be sold and distributed, but some of it will ultimately go to waste, costing the energy companies all sorts of money.

Renewable Energy

grid energy storageIn their current state, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar aren’t perfect solutions to peak energy demand.

Take, for example, solar farms: because the main catalyst for energy generation is the sun, daily energy generation can vary depending on the weather. This means there will be days when the solar installation will provide too much power and days when it isn’t providing enough power.

This is problematic for handling peak loads, since maximum energy generation will often not coincide with peak load times or times of blackouts.

Wind, hydro, and other forms of renewables suffer from similar shortfalls: without some way of capturing and storing the excess energy generation to reduce the effect of peak loads, none of these systems can help stabilize the grid in times of need.

Benefits of Battery Storage Systems

Battery storage systems offer a whole host of benefits that can be utilized by power grids, some of which are listed below:

• Energy Management
• Backup Power
• Load Leveling
• Frequency Regulation
• Voltage Support
• Grid Stabilization
• Emergency Preparedness

These benefits apply to both traditional, fossil fuel-based power plants and renewable energy plants, making battery storage a highly versatile solution to grid stabilization.

In the case of traditional power plants, energy storage systems can store excess energy generated throughout the day, negating the need for additional fuel to be spent during peak hours since the batteries can supply the extra juice needed to stabilize the grid.

And for renewable energy sources, the same concept applies: on days when there is plentiful sun and low energy demand, excess energy can be stored in the batteries to be used at a later time, like when more energy is needed to supply backup power during unexpected spikes in usage.

Implementing Battery Storage Systems

Because energy storage technologies are so variable, battery storage systems are also highly variable, with many of these systems being fully customized to suit specific purposes.

Consumer Grade Energy Storage

energy storage systemsWhen we talk about consumer grade energy storage, what we’re really talking about are home battery units that get used in conjunction with rooftop solar panels.

Home battery units, much like utility-grade battery storage, are used to store excess energy not being utilized by the property.

The energy stored in these batteries can be used for a variety of purposes, like powering various electronic devices such air conditioning units, refrigerators, and computers, which helps reduce the resident’s monthly energy bill since the property wouldn’t need to rely on the local energy grid for power, but there are other benefits as well.

Modern day grids allow owners who have stored excess energy to sell the energy stored in their batteries to local power companies, which they can then use to help stabilize the grid during peak load times.

Thus, it’s easy to see that if a large portion of the Australian population were to adopt some sort of home energy generation combined with modern battery storage solutions, the grid would become much more flexible and dynamic, as the grid could simply “tap in” to this resource (if needed), and at a price lower than traditional peak load leveling costs.

Large Scale Energy Projects

While consumer-grade battery storage is off to a promising start, it will likely be some time before this technology can provide reliable utility-grade grid energy storage and leveling capabilities.

In the meantime, companies like Tesla are taking the initiative in Australia with the world’s largest lithium-ion battery storage facility, set to come in December.

Fueled by the Hornsdale windfarm near Jamestown, the energy stored in this massive 100-megawatt battery can be sold by the operators back into the grid for the purposes of load leveling. Additionally, the South Australian government will have the right to tap the battery’s full capacity to prevent blackouts during the summer.

These sorts of projects will continue to become more common in the future, and as a matter of fact, the Australian energy storage systems market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 30% between 2017 and 2023.

This growth comes as a result falling prices of lithium-ion batteries (60% by 2020), a nationwide shift towards renewables, and the need for grid stabilization.4

LDC Infrastructure’s Role

LDC Infrastructure is one of Australia’s leading land lease and rental rights acquisition companies, providing both homeowners and developers with financial opportunities.

If you’re a property owner has a ground lease with a developer for the installation of lithium-ion batteries to be used for energy storage, we can provide you with a lump-sum cash payout for the entire value of your lease.

And, if you’re a developer looking for land for a new energy storage project, we may have the assets that you require.

Contact LDC Infrastructure Today

Whether you’re looking to sell your ground lease or are just curious as to its value, we can provide you with a no-obligation analysis and valuation if your site meets our criteria.

Please call us at 1300 149 499 or click here to submit your information online so that we may contact you.