Updated March 15, 2018 07:22:25What you need a look at if you want to know what’s happening in Australia’s battery storage industry.
As Australia’s first battery storage plant opens in Brisbane this week, the country’s battery sector is facing the biggest disruption in decades.
What’s happening at battery storage?
It’s not the first time battery storage has faced disruption.
In 2016, Australia was hit by the closure of several storage sites in the US, including one in the city of Charleston.
“When it comes to battery storage, there’s always been a gap between what is happening in the market and what is being developed and developed,” says Greg Johnson, executive director of research at energy and resource consulting firm KPMG.
“And there’s a lot of talk about what’s being developed, but a lot more attention has been paid to what is currently being built.”
Batteries can store energy when the sun shines or when the grid is not working, but they are not a reliable source of electricity when they are disconnected from the grid.
While Australia is the world’s fourth largest market for batteries, it’s a big problem for its grid, which relies on a combination of wind, solar and geothermal power.
“The grid in Australia is in trouble, and that is something that we know is going to be a problem for the foreseeable future,” says Matthew Wood from the University of NSW’s School of Energy, Resources and Climate Change.
“There are a lot issues that have to be addressed in order to keep the grid going.”
A number of projects are already under way in Australia, but the biggest battery storage facilities are being built in Queensland, which is expected to be the world leader in the field.
Batterys are used to store electricity when the electricity grid is in good shape, but when there’s not enough electricity, the batteries need to be replaced with something else.
The first project, in Melbourne’s south-east, has been operating since 2018.
The biggest problem that Queensland has is its ageing grid.
According to a 2015 study by the Australian Energy Market Operator, the number of homes and businesses in Queensland with electricity was reduced by 7.4 per cent between 2014 and 2020.
That means Queensland is facing a major challenge when it comes in to building new battery storage.
“You can’t just go and get a battery facility in a state that’s struggling to meet their grid requirements,” says Johnson.
“It’s really about what you do with the energy storage, what you can do with it, how much storage capacity it can provide, how it can be integrated into the energy system and what sort of long-term future it’s envisaged for the state.”
The Government is also looking to move away from coal-fired power stations, which have been the main energy provider for the country for decades.
“In a lot that the grid does, and the energy market is a big part of it, coal power stations are the biggest source of greenhouse gases,” says Wood.
“So you’re going to have to consider what you’re doing with that energy storage and how that’s going to impact on that.”
Battery storage is being built on land owned by the Queensland Government.
The project, which includes the Powerwall, is expected cost $10 billion to $15 billion.
It’s due to start construction in 2021.
What is the Powergrid?
The Powergrid is a massive, modular battery storage system that can store 100 megawatts of electricity.
It will be built on a 25-kilometre (15-mile) stretch of the Queensland coast.
The Powerwall has been designed to store up to 50,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which means it will be capable of providing more than 60 per cent of the nation’s electricity needs.
“Power is one of the most efficient ways of storing electricity,” says David Hargreaves, managing director of the company that’s building the Powerwalls, EnergyAustralia.
“What we’re trying to do is build a system that’s not only flexible, but also capable of operating in a variety of scenarios.”
“The whole system will be modular in nature and can be switched on or off at any time.”
The Powerwalks will be connected to a power grid in Queensland.
The electricity will be stored by the Powerbank and then transferred to generators.
“They will be able to generate electricity from solar, from wind, from geothermal, from hydro, from biomass, from nuclear, from fossil fuel, from gas, from the carbon market and also from solar thermal,” says Hargresons.
EnergyAustralia estimates the Powerwalks will generate up to 2.5 million megawatt hours of electricity each year, enough to power more than 2.6 million homes.
“That’s enough to supply power to every home in the state of Queensland,” says Michael O’Leary, chief executive of EnergyAustralia, which has partnered with the PowerBank to provide