New Battery Technology Makes Solar Competitive

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted March 21, 2013

The Australian government has thrown its weight behind renewable energy storage by awarding funding to Ecoult via the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Ecoult would be able to use this funding to develop small and mid-sized energy storage solutions based on the Deka UltraBattery technology platform, which could lead to delivery of highly efficient energy storage to homes and small business across the nation and even globally.

energy storage companiesIn its early stages, the program aims at developing a battery storage system prototype for three main types of deficit charge or distributed energy needs. These include off-grid renewable power, distributed connected storage to support power and voltage fluctuations (especially in areas with a high concentration of rooftop solar installments), and hybrid generation of power to gain efficiencies.

The Sacramento Bee quotes Ecoult CEO John Wood:

“Ecoult has already demonstrated the success of the Deka UltraBattery technology in MW scale applications in a range of field conditions,” Mr Wood said.

“We are now in the process of extending our products and solutions from MW-scale to commercial and residential applications. Our objective is to reduce the cost of energy storage and boost the competitiveness of small-scale renewable energy sources such as roof-top solar panels.

“This backing from the Australian Government will help us continue our work in enabling affordable and effective integration of renewable energy into the Australian grid as well as in remote, off-grid applications.”

This pilot phase of the program also represents a collaboration between Ecoult and its U.S.-based parent company, East Penn Manufacturing, as well as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). It’s the latter that first came up with the Deka UltraBattery technology, and it continues to be involved in the project.

Currently, CSIRO is working on algorithms that can more efficiently integrate the UltraBattery units with solar photovoltaic panels, thus paving the way toward higher efficiencies of operation, by maximizing the value obtained per kilowatt-hour of energy storage.

Ecoult has experienced prior success with the Deka platform, and has placed it in MW-scale grid-connected solutions at various points around the world. Right now, Ecoult is working on implementing it at the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project, which could lead the King Island drastically reducing its reliance on diesel fuel, as the Sacramento Bee reports.

According to tests undertaken by the Sandia National Labs (U.S.), the Deka power storage system handily outdoes traditional sealed lead acid batteries by as much as five times. These sealed lead acid batteries are the current industry solution for distributed energy storage. Motive, or “deep discharge” batteries, adapted for renewable support, are used commonly.

However, they tend to progressively lose their capacity with each cycle of charging. Thus, “overcharges” must be performed periodically, which is in itself a disruptive process and curtails the lifetime of the battery, according to the Sacramento Bee. All in all, it’s a fairly wasteful process. The Deka UltraBattery aims to overcome this chief limitation.

The ARENA funding for Ecoult amounts to AU$480,000, while the project itself is scheduled over a 30-month period, at a total cost of AU$1.16 million.

Renew Economy quotes Martin Ferguson, Australia’s Minister for Resources and Energy:

“Testing the UltraBattery technology for both off-grid and distributed technology environments will allow us to learn how we can reduce power fluctuations, which can otherwise act as a barrier to connecting additional solar installations to the electricity grid,” Ferguson said.

“In residential areas with a large volume of rooftop solar photovoltaics, or in off grid and remote communities that are trying to displace diesel through renewables, battery technology will be crucial to maximising electricity from renewable energy resources.”

Australia is moving into renewable energy in a major way, and Ecoult isn’t the only cleantech firm making news. The online energy retailer, Click Energy, has just formed a partnership with Stem Energy, which is based in the U.S., and will distribute Stem’s energy management and storage system to Australian customers in an effort to help them curb electricity expenses, Renew Economy reports. That is Stem’s first international partnership, coming right after they’ve sold out their first run of Stem Energy Systems in the U.S.

According to Stem, the system makes use of high-tech battery storage technology alongside cloud-based data crunching, the net result of which could be reductions in power consumption by up to 20 percent.

Clearly, it’s a good time for power storage solutions manufacturers as they get to partner with cleantech companies in a joint effort against conventional fuel and power infrastructures.


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