Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Australian Cleantech RedFlow

Giles Parkinson at the Climate Spectator has an article on Queensland based flow battery company RedFlow - Australian Cleantech: RedFlow.
Large-scale energy storage is one of those technologies that everyone reckons is a great idea, and almost essential for intermittent renewables, but then wonders if it will ever work. Or, more to the point, if it can work at a price that is readily affordable.

Over the next few weeks, Australian battery storage developer RedFlow will be out to demonstrate that its technology is both affordable and useful. It will be installing its large-scale zinc bromine flow batteries at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus in Brisbane, plugging into what will be the country’s largest (1.2MW) and most powerful solar photovoltaic generation system.

Its RedFlow 200 unit – using 48 zinc-bromine battery modules, which can deliver up to 400kwh of energy – will plug into a 390 kW section of the PV array during the daytime, and feed it back into the local network at the times when it is most needed. The PV array is situated atop car parking facilities, and will sit side-by-side with an identical array that will not have storage.

RedFlow CEO Phil Hutchings says it will be a world-first demonstration with solar PV at this scale, and will demonstrate how storage can guarantee supply during periodic power drops created by passing clouds, and then feed power back into the local network at evening peaks.

UQ researchers will also analyse the results to learn the impacts of large-scale energy storage on the local electricity network, its value in meeting peak demand and how to control power flow.

Hutchings says the RedFlow 200, which sells for around $600,000, is likely to have larger markets overseas, particularly in places like Hawaii which have to ship in fuel oil, have huge energy costs and are looking at different renewable and energy storage technologies.

But Hutchings says the units also offer a cost effective solution in Australia, particularly in rural areas where they offer cheaper solutions to local network upgrades needed by the surge in electronic gadgetry and appliances in homes.

“You can take smaller storage units (about the size of a large chest freezer) put them in locations at end of line so they feed back into network at peak times,” he says. “It means you can levellise the load without having to invest millions in network upgrades.”

But Hutchings says that while there is a clear economic case to avoid network upgrades, the company is hopeful that it can eventually bring down costs far enough to make it attractive to households. Those cost reductions, however, are only likely to emerge in large-scale production.

Hutchings says energy storage is a growth industry, driven by the increases in peak demand as retailers sell more and more energy hungry appliances, the introduction of smart grids, and the proliferation of solar panels. He sees it growing to a multi-billion dollar market over the next decade, although this will largely depend on costs.

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