Redback Technologies receive $4m grant from QLD

The Queensland government has given Redback Technologies a $4m grant to continue its work on developing a smart energy monitoring platform. The grant has been awarded through the Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program. 

Redback Technologies

Redback Technologies - Redback Smart Hybrid Inverter
Redback Technologies – Redback Smart Hybrid Inverter (source: redbacktech.com)

The Brisbane based Redback Technologies advertise themselves as creators of “Advanced hybrid technology with battery manages and stores solar energy, which you can save for your own personal use or sell back to grid.”

The Fifth Estate is reporting that this could result in Redback hiring up to 109 new staff to help the development and manufacture of their ‘smart energy monitoring platform’ – a system which is able to deliver real-time power generation/usage information via apps or the internet and is also able to automate smart (IOT) appliances. It also manages solar and battery energy use depending on the weather, usage patterns, current tariffs the customer has, and so on. Obviously the project is not complete yet so we don’t have a full feature set but it’s really exciting to see something like this developed so close to home, and being helped by the government. 

Innovation Minister Kate Jones told a press conference:

“Redback Technologies is at the forefront of moves to make battery storage technology more affordable, with a system that will enable a reduction in energy costs for consumers and help to pump renewable energy into the grid.

“The $4 million Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program grant will lead to the development of a smart energy monitoring platform that will give customers the ability to instantly analyse and control energy consumption.” Ms. Jones continued.

Philip Livingston, the managing director of Redback, said that there will be macro as well as end user benefits as the business grows – pointing out that the more data they’re able to get on usage patterns, we will see a commensurate increase in efficiency of their systems: 

“The support of the Queensland government will enable Redback and our partners to create a platform ecosystem, using big data to drive better outcomes for energy users and energy businesses,” he said.

“This technology will benefit industries beyond energy.”

Tesla Battery in SA Earns $1m in a few days.

The Tesla Battery in SA has earned an estimated $1m in the last few days due to warm temperatures and a very volatile electricity market. Since being announced in July of last year and completed in November, the battery has already withstood a test last December when the Loy Yang Power Station (sector A3) tripped and went offline – the battery was able to send 100MW to the grid in 140ms, despite being almost 1000km away. It’s now proving its value again during a hot Australian summer where it was paid up to $1000/MWh to charge itself last week, according to Electrek and RenewEconomy.

Tesla Battery in SA Earnings

Tesla Battery in SA Earns $1m in a few days
Tesla Battery in SA Earns $1m in a few days (source: reneweconomy.com.au)

The 100MW/129MWh Tesla Powerpack system installed in South Australia (which is known to the grid as the Hornsdale Power Reserve) was built by Tesla and is operated by Neoen -who have access to about 30MW/90MWh of the battery’s capacity to trade on the wholesale market. The South Australian government have access to the remaining electricity to help stabilise the grid. 

As we saw with its 140ms response time, the Powerpack is able to offer energy to the wholesale market a lot faster than its rivals – allowing Neoen to profit from the large swings in energy prices in Australia (which become even more intense when we have a heatwave or there’s an outage at any of our major plants). 

Elektrek are reporting that during certain peak periods, Neoen were able to sell energy at up to $14,000 per MWh, according to forecasts from RenewEconomy on the 23rd. 

A couple of weeks ago Tesla was chosen to build another Powerpack battery in Bulgana, and the company fronted by the charismatic Elon Musk is also working in conjunction with Neoen to bid for even larger battery projects – so hopefully the good results the battery in SA has been delivering will bode well for the future. 

 

Redflow in Thailand – Produce First Battery Stacks

Redflow in Thailand – we reported last year on their decision to move manufacturing of the Redflow zinc-bromine flow batteries to Thailand. Today they have emailed out a press release advising that they’ve successfully produced the first battery electrode stacks from the new factory southeast of Bangkok at the Hemaraj Chonburi Industrial Estate. 

Redflow in Thailand

Redflow in Thailand - Battery Production Milestone Reached
Redflow in Thailand – Battery Production Milestone Reached (source: redflow.com)

Redflow announced in December last year that they had succesfully started manufacturing core compenents for the zinc-bromine flow batteries at its new production facility – with the successful production of electrode inserts made of HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) plastic at their Thai factory.

Today’s press release noted that they’ve now successfully produced battery electrode stacks – a key component of the ZBM2 zinc-bromine flow battery. The stacks involve using electrodes that charge and discharge the battery by “plating” and “deplating” zinc on a membrane. This process means the membrane is able to sustain 10 kilowatt-hours of energy storage capacity throughout the battery’s operating life, which  is estimated at 10 years of 36,500 kWh of delivered energy (whichever comes first). Keep in mind that battery performance and lifetime won’t be sensitive to cycle depth as there are no limitations due to the nature of zinc-bromine flow batteries. They’ll deliver 100% depth of discharge every day for their warranted time and this doesn’t cause any damage to the battery. 

According to the Redflow Limited Managing Director and CEO Richard Aird, the process has been smooth sailing so far: 

“The manufacturing team is very happy with the consistent quality and acceptable yield metrics of the stack line,” he said in the press release. 

As per Redflow’s manufacturing timeline, they are well on track to be able to produce complete batteries by June of this year. 

It’s been a brave move for Simon Hackett’s Redflow, who have had a challenging 2017 and made some tough operating decisions for the new year. We’ll keep you updated as to how production goes for their batteries. 

Vanadium Redox/Flow Battery Storage

Today we’re going to look at the vanadium redox battery, also known as the VRB or vanadium flow battery. It’s a rapidly improving type of rechargeable flow battery which employs vanadium ions in different oxidation states to store chemical potential energy. The battery involves energy stored in chemical form, in a liquid electrolyte (V2O5) contained in two separate tanks. The battery uses the ability of vanadium to exist in solution in four oxidation states, using this property to make a battery that has one electroactive element instead of two.

The Vanadium Energy Storage Battery

In many ways it is a superior technology to lithium-ion, which was designed with portability in mind and as such is not necessarily the best choice for larger scale energy storage. 

  • Long-scale duration (they can run for excess of 25 years)
  • No self-discharge
  • No Memory/Ghost effect (always runs at 100% discharge)
  • Up to 1 year charge retention.
  • Excellent scalability. 

According to Wikipedia, second-generation batteries (utilising vanadium and bromine) could double the energy density whilst simultaneously increasing the temperature range in which the battery is operable.

Vanadium Vs. Lithium Ion

Vanadium flow batteries offer 100% capacity for a lifespan of up to 25 years. Lithium-ion degrades quite seriously (e.g. the Tesla Powerwall 2 guarantees at least 70% of the original capacity after 10 years or 37,800 kilowatt-hours). 

They’re also safer than lithium-ion – the chemistry involved in VRBs is non-flammable and non-explosive (in contrast to lithium-ion – have a read about the exploding Samsung Note 7).

Vanadium won’t replace lithium-ion in any small applications, however – they are too big and heavy for any small items like mobile phones or laptops. In terms of storing solar power, their increased safety, 100% depth of discharge, and 100% capacity for up to 25 years means there are definitely some serious benefits over lithium-ion. 

Vanadium Energy Storage Options

StorEn THERMASTABLE Vanadium Flow Battery
StorEn THERMASTABLE Vanadium Flow Battery (source: cleantechnica.com)

StorEn are planning on making their THERMASTABLE batteries available in late 2019 – targetting the US first and then other countries after that. 

VSun Energy Pty Ltd offer the VRB energy storage system aka the Cellcube and the first battery has already been installed in Western Australia. According to the website, they are also in initial talks and have submitted proposals to other companies, with potential customers emerging from a range of backgrounds, including mining and exploration companies, the farming community and industrial sites.

Other manufacturers of VRBS include Schmid, UET, redT Energy and Rongke Power.

We’ll keep this page updated with more information about this new technology and what sort of applications we’re seeing it used in! Something will come along to usurp lithium-ion soon enough, both for small-scale and large-scale storage – the technology has been lagging for years and we’re excited to see what comes next. 

AGL Virtual Power Plant Upgrade?

AGL have confirmed that their trial of networked home storage batteries has been halted temporarily as they manage unknown variables with their ‘Virtual Power Plant’ – which was labelled by AGL as the ‘largest project of its kind in the world’ earlier this year.

Virtual Power Plant

AGL Virtual Power Plant
AGL Virtual Power Plant (source: @AndyVesey_AGL)

The scheme went live in March at West Lakes in Adelaide and has see hundreds of households’ solar and battery storage linked together to form a 5MW ‘virtual solar power station’. The scheme cost $20m and ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) kicked in $5m of that to back the project. As such the cost to the consumer was heavily subsidised and interest has been very high within the test area. 

At the time AGL MD and CEO Andy Vesey said “Our South Australian VPP demonstration is a practical example of the new energy future,” – noting that AGL planned their ‘VPP’ will deliver benefits by increasing grid stability (albeit just for the test group for the time being). The batteries installed were by Sunverge, a producer of intelligent energy storage and advanced AC-coupled storage systems. They use a proprietary virtual power plant software, and in this situation were unique as all the batteries could be remotely operated by AGL. Some customers paid extra for the AC coupled storage systems so they could use them during a blackout. 

There have, however, been potential hiccups with the Virtual Power Plant this week as AGL wrote to waitlisted customers to advise them they won’t receive any of the current Sunverge batteries, and that they plan to utilise “next-generation battery technology into our next phase of installations”. 

The ABC asked AGL about the issues with their VPP and they dodged the question about how many batteries being replaced (and what their upgrade plan is), but a spokesman did say that “Lessons and customer feedback from the initial phase of the project are being used to shape subsequent phases and we want to ensure that all customers have an opportunity to opt in to the next generation offering,”

We’ll keep you updated to see what they’re going to offer for the next phase of their Virtual Power Plant – another exciting step for energy storage technology for South Australia.

Redback Smart Hybrid System / EnergyAustralia

Queensland based solar company Redback Technologies have teamed up with EnergyAustralia to offer a “next generation” smart solar plus storage system, named the Redback Smart Hybrid – which is slated to pay for itself within seven years.

Redback Smart Hybrid System

Redback Smart Hybrid Battery Enclosure
Redback Smart Hybrid Battery Enclosure (source: redbacktech.com)

According to the Australian Financial Review, the system will utilise smart technology to optimise use of solar panels and batteries depending on usage and weather patterns. It’ll also have an app which allows users to remotely control and monitor operation of the Redback Smart Hybrid system.

Estimates from EnergyAustralia say that a normal household with usage of 8000kWh / year will save around $1,500 a year with the Redback Smart Hybrid system (4.9kW solar array and 3.3kWh battery). That system would cost around $9,000, or $7,000 to retrofit to existing panels with some modifications to the inverter. One of the main bonuses of the system is that it’s modular – so customers are able to scale up if they’re interested in expanding. It makes use of the Redback Smart Hybrid Solar Inverter which is designed in Brisbane, and different batteries / solar panels depending on your circumstances.

Kane Thornton, CEO of the Clean Energy Council called the system an example of the “game-changing” tech currently coming out to help combat rapidly rising electricity bills.

Andrew Perry of Energy Australia was circumspect to the AFR about specific sales goals for the system, but did advise that they have “strong ambitions for growth”. It certainly seems like we are heading very quickly to the point where solar + storage is a no-brainer for certain types of consumer – especially with the ‘smart technology’ removing the need for spreadsheets and PhDs for those wanting to get a strong result from their solar investment. To get a system like this for under $10,000 is a great deal – we’ll be very interested to see how sales go over the coming months.

Redback Smart Hybrid vs Tesla Powerwall

Technically the Redback Smart Hybrid is just an inverter + smart energy management system, but the Smart Hybrid system being offered by EnergyAustralia is an ‘all in one’ system. In comparison to the Powerwall which is just an inverter + storage,  it’s a bit difficult to compare them fairly. It is important to note that given the modular design of the Smart Hybrid, you’re able to ‘start off small’ with a 3.3kWh battery (as opposed to the Powerwall 2, which you can also add to, but only in increments of 13.4kWh) and grow from there.

The PowerWall is significantly more expensive than the Redback, and doesn’t include solar panels. However, if money is less of an issue and you’re prepared to wait, the Tesla Solar Roof Australian release date is currently “early 2018” and will undoubtedly be a premium solution for those who are interested in aesthetics along with quality.

It seems that both systems have their own niche depending on how much one wants to pay – but you certainly couldn’t be faulted for taking a look at the Redback Smart Hybrid price point and being impressed. If the smart tech works like they say it does, it’ll be a very powerful contender against all comers. Not having to worry about compatibility is definitely a big plus – although the battery / panels used may differ depending on your circumstances, EnergyAustralia will ensure the system fits together nicely.

The Redback / EnergyAustralia Partnership

EnergyAustralia invested $9.3m into Redback Technologies last October – their first major investment. The two companies have been working together on various projects including back in April where they inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to bring Redback’s solar tech to Dubai South for a pilot project.

Have a look at the video below which introduces Redback Technologies, their founder and MD Philip Livingston, and explains more about their partnership with EnergyAustralia.

Redflow News: to move manufacturing to Thailand

A lot of Redflow news recently – the Australian solar battery manufacturer has had a fairly tumultuous 2017, with the temporarily halt in delivery of their zCell batteries to fix some operational issues, to a steadily sinking share price. The last couple of months had had more positive news, with an $800,000 sale of its ZBM2 batteries to New Zealand company Hitech Solutions and the establishment of a company in Thailand to manage the manufacturing process of its zinc-bromide flow batteries in South East Asia.

Redflow News: Equity, Thailand, Change in Direction..

Redflow News - ZBM2 Solar Battery
Redflow News – ZBM2 Solar Battery

Redflow Limited made a statement to the ASX on August 17 where they noted that the final North American production batch of ZBM2 batteries is now in transit to Australia. They have a new manufacturing partner, Malaysian based MPTS, who have been a long term supplier of components for the Redflow battery. They have moved their manufacturing base from Flex in Mexico to Thailand, and have cut staff in Europe and the US in order to streamline operating costs.

They also completed an equity raising round via a share placement of $10.5 million in two portions to investors and another $4 million in shares to Hackett CP Nominees Pty Ltd (i.e. Redflow CEO Simon Hackett).

Hackett was positive about the future of the company, noting that “In May Redflow recorded its largest sale to date, to an energy systems integrator working in the telecommunications and network power sector.”

Meanwhile, Redflow Chief Operating Officer Richard Aird discussed the impact of moving manufacturing locations and hinted towards their plans for the future, posting on the Redflow website that “The activities Redflow is undertaking to transition manufacturing and to implement key product cost-down projects are critical to the future success of the company,”.

This comes off the back of a statement by Redflow that they were less bullish about the future of their ZBM2 zinc-bromide flow batteries in the residential sector in Australia, given the rapid sink in cost of mass produced lithium ion batteries and being unable to match these prices. A statement from the company advised that a strategic review has necessitated a change in focus:

“The review anticipates that this may not translate into strong sustained sales growth in the mid and late majority residential market, due to the price-sensitivity of competitive, highly commoditised markets, which tend to prioritise a low purchase price over technical advantages, such as those offered by Zinc-Bromine flow batteries.”

Quite a big quarter for Redflow news and we’ll be interested to see how its move into large arrays of battery storage goes – the company has identified that they will focus on more mature markets – industrial, commercial, off-grid, telecommunications companies where they will look to replace existing lead acid battery with their zinc-bromide offering.

Will the $800,000 sale to Hitech Solutions be a flash in the pan or a harbinger of things to come? It’s great to see how they have been flexible in terms of moving around their operational focus – hopefully this new focus will prove to be more fruitful than their foray into the residential market.

SonnenBatterie Eco 8 vs Tesla Powerwall

German solar company sonnen have been in the news quite a lot recently – they’ve gained 13% of the Australian solar battery market since entering it in 2016 – selling over 11,000 battery units. One of their best selling solar batteries is the SonnenBatterie Eco 8.2 – we’re going to take a look at it today and see how it stacks up against the more popular offerings like the Powerwall 2. Sonnen have sold over 10,000 of these units and have 75% of the market in Germany – the Eco 8 is the eighth iteration of a supremely powerful and mature battery. Let’s learn more:

SonnenBatterie Eco 8.2

sonnenBatterie Eco 8 Australia
sonnenBatterie Eco 8 Australia (source: sonnen)

It’s not suitable for outdoor use (only IP21 rated) and wasn’t previously off-grid compatible, but the Sonnen Eco is now available with automatic blackout/backup power option (sonnenProtect 1300). IT has a 1.3kW total load limit so it won’t run your reverse cycle air con and dishwasher, but is suitable for less intensive appliances like energy efficient fridges, lamps, laptops, fans, chargers, and so on.  It was crazy that sonnen thought it was okay to release a premium solar storage battery without this option, but I digress…click here to read the sonnenProtect 1300 Specifications and datasheet.

Here are some of the of the sonnen Eco specifications:

  • 2-16kWh capacity (modular design which increases in 2kWh increments).
  • Easy to retrofit to your existing panels.
  • Compatible with all panels.
  • 10year / 10,000 cycle warranty.
  • 2.5 cycles per day (2.5x ‘value’ and faster payback).
  • Inverter included.
  • Online management with ‘self learning algorithm’ (automatically decides the best times to charge and supply).
  • Proper UPS and automatic blackout protection with SonnenBatterie Protect 1300.
  • Reliable supplier who has been making these batteries since 2008.

After more technical info? Click here to read the sonnenEco Datasheet.

SonnenBatterie vs Tesla Powerwall

This is a real battle of the premium energy storage giants – you can certainly get systems for less but if you want the best it’s Powerwall vs. SonnenBatterie.

The Powerwall 2 and the SonnenBatterie eco are both ‘fully integrated’ systems – which means the unit included inverter, all the power components, and software. They’re both AC coupled – so you’re able to connect microinverters or string inverters to either of them if you so desire.

As mentioned previously, the Eco is only for indoor installation but the Powerwall can be installed outside.

They both have 10 year warranties but the Eco 8 is also covered for 10k cycles – the Powerwall, by comparison, only offers 3,650 cycles.

The Sonnen Eco comes in 8 different sizes, but the comparable model to the Powerwall (14kWh) is currently a little more expensive than the Powerwall. How much, it depends on who you talk to – but if you’re interested in getting a quote then look below:

Buy SonnenBatterie in Australia

If you want to buy a SonnenBatterie and you’re located in Australia, please fill in the form to the right and we’ll help you get the system installed by a qualified professional, at a great price.

If you’re interested in watching some promotional videos about the product, then please watch this video below to learn more about the sconnenBatterie eco direct from sonnen themselves:

Watch this video to learn more about sonnenBatterie and energy independence:

NorthVolt shape up as Tesla competitor

A Swedish company called NorthVolt AB are hoping to halve the cost of energy storage by building a 4 billion euro lithium-ion battery factory to rival Tesla‘s ‘gigafactory’. The Stockholm-based company is the brainchild of founder Peter Mikael Carlsson, Tesla’s former head of sourcing and supply chains.

The NorthVolt Vision

NorthVolt Peter Mikael Carlsson
The NorthVolt Team (source: northvolt.com)

According to Bloomberg, NorthVolt are hoping to raise 1 billion euros by 2018 so they’re able to commence construction on a factory in Q3, and start production in 2020. Carlsson says NorthVolt are going to announce a shortlist of possible manufacturing sites (all based in Sweden) in a month or two. They’ve already raised 5 million kronor (~675,000 euros) from for their foray into energy storage technology.

“Europe will be a very important market for energy storage,” Carlsson told Bloomberg in a phone interview, adding: “…there is a huge need for back-up power. There is also a sizable auto industry that has made big promises to go electric.” “Coming out of this partnership round and going into a larger financing round next, we see that it will look favourable to the financial market that we have a number of customers that have already shown commitment by investing in us.”

So we can see that NorthVolt have a huge vision and Carlsson certainly has the pedigree to be able to pull it off –

Inverse report that the completed Northvolt factory will produce 32 gigawatt-hours of storage per annum – in comparison to Tesla’s Gigafactory, slated to produce 35 gigawatt-hours. Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO, has been quoted as saying 35 gigawatt-hours is enough to power 1% of the entire world’s energy supply onto renewable – so it’d be amazing to have two of them up and running within the next few years. How long until the entire world is running on 100% renewable energy? Maybe not in any too-near timeframe but it isn’t that far off, either.

We’ve linked a video below which introduces Northvolt and how they plan to commence ‘Enabling the Future of Energy’ – it’s just a short primer but well worth a watch if you’re interested (and if you’ve made it to the end of this article hopefully you will be!). We look forward to reporting more about NorthVolt vs. Tesla in the future. Keeping in mind it’s not exactly a competition and we hope they both succeed.

 

Battery Storage Laws under fire

The solar battery storage industry is currently locked in a fierce battle with Standards Australia to halt new battery storage laws which would severely impact the uptake of residential battery storage in Australia. The draft regulations have been released and are now being discussed throughout the industry.

Battery Storage Laws

The main problem is that there aren’t currently any Standards Australia regulations for domestic battery installations – something that obviously needs to be identified and managed. The Clean Energy Council (CEC) already released a set of industry rules in 2016 which limit home batteries to ‘a dedicated equipment room or battery room’ – advising that installers need to be wary of ventilation, extreme temperatures, and ensure they don’t install in ‘habitable rooms’ e.g. bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens. The CEC’s rules, however, did include an exemption for ‘all in one’ battery and inverter control systems.

Battery Storage Laws - Standards Australia
Draft Battery Storage Laws – Standards Australia (source: standards.org.au)

Standards Australia have released a draft of their regulations for in-house energy storage – and they are far more draconian:

  • Lithium ion batteries will be classed as ‘fire hazard class 1’ and must not be installed inside a domestic dwelling, within a metre of any access or egress area or under any part of a domestic dwelling.
  • Lithium ion batteries will need to be housed in a 3x2m fire shelter with eaves.
  • Consumer groups and the solar battery storage industry have until August 15 to challenge these recommendations.

Dr. Bronwyn Evans,  the CEO of Standards Australia, was quoted in the Australian as saying the draft report is a “comprehensive document” created as “the result of many hours of work from experts representing industry, government and community interests”. They’ve been labelled as ‘over-zealous’ by the CEC.

CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said: “Consumer safety is our first priority, and there is nothing to suggest that this requirement would do anything other than throw up unnecessary barriers and red tape around an industry which is poised to make a big contribution to energy security across the country.”

It seems that these very strict draft recommendations have been put in place in an attempt to mitigate a repeat of the Rudd Government’s Energy Efficient Homes Package program (more specifically, the Home Insulation Program ‘stream’ of this package) in 2010, which was a failure on myriad fronts and also resulted in the deaths of four workers in four separate incidents.

There’s no doubt that we need to be careful and ensure the safety of households with storage and also make sure they’re safe for installers/repairers – but this needs to be managed responsibly, not with knee-jerk and unnecessarily over regulated reactions.

Access Standards Australia’s public comment portal to leave your comment on the new rules by clicking here.