The first solar powered house in Australia.

The ABC recently ran an article about the first solar powered house in Australia, the ‘Bos house’ – which was constructed in Victoria 40 years ago. A TV documentary ‘Breakthroughts’ called the house “the first totally energy-independent modern home in the world”.

The first solar powered house in Australia

The first solar powered house in Australia
Solar gate at the Bos’ – the first solar powered house in Australia (source: ABC)

Judy and Michael Bos have a house on a four hectare block at Pearcedale, in south-east Melbourne. They wanted a house which had as much natural insulation as possible so that it would be naturally cool in summer and warm in winter. It was build in 1978 after ‘lengthy consultation’ with architects and investigating other houses:

“We went into other houses, we found that their heating was blasting away and we didn’t need the heat, because the house stays the same temperature all the time,” Judy Bos told the ABC in an interview.

The north-facing side of the Bos’ home is 98% glass, which means it absorbs as much warmth from the sun as possible. If it’s a hot day they have louvres throughout the house to control sunlight. Wind turbines power a dam pump and a 37,000 litre rainwater tank. 

“It was the first house that we knew of that was running exclusively on solar power,” said Michael Harris, who ran tours of the eco-friendly property in the 1980s.

“Back in the 1980s people were very interested in being self-sufficient and being off the grid, and it was very difficult to do.

“The only option you had was to have a clunky, noisy generator in the back shed.”

The Bos’ property was different – where it has a string of polycrystalline celled solar panels to charge a cupboard full of lead acid solar batteries. According to the ABC, solar panels are now 15x more powerful than when the Bos’ place was constructed, and they’re also much, much cheaper. 

The (now sold) house was a labor of love and quite far ahead of its time and the Bos’ say that anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps will find it easy in 2018:

“This is a very old-fashioned solar house,” Ms Bos said.

“We had to deal with what was available at the time … but now there are all sorts of materials that can be used.

“It doesn’t cost any more to put the windows in the right places and to use the right materials, and in the long run you win.”

We’re expecting solar battery installation to increase quite substantially over the coming few years as the technology continues to improve and the cost decreases.  

Redflow Thai-stack batteries ZBM2 – filling backorders.

Redflow, who moved their battery manufacturing to Thailand last year, have announced that the first Redflow Thai-stack batteries are now fully complete and ready for customers to purchase. The ZBM2 zinc-bromine flow battery is Redflow’s flagship energy storage product – it looks like it’s almost ready to debut their Thai manufactured version. 

Redflow Thai-stack batteries now ready for customers

Redflow Thai-stack batteries ZBM2
The first Redflow Thai-stack batteries (ZBM2)
 
According to a press release on the Redflow website, the Thai-made battery stacks were installed on pre-existing ZBM2 battery tank sets and thoroughly tested – passing all pre-delivery tests with flying colours. As such, these completed batteries are now ready to supply existing customer orders. 
 
We reported back in January that they had completed their first battery stacks so it’s great to see them now fully complete and ready to start filling orders of (presumably very patient) customers. Redflow announced in December last year that they had successfully started manufacturing core components for the zinc-bromine flow batteries at its new production facility – so it’s been a fast and relatively seamless transition over to Thailand. Hopefully the lower operating costs can help make these batteries compete with other ‘big name’ options such as the Powerwall 2 or the BYD B-Box
 
Redflow CEO Richard Aird was quoted in the press release as discussing how the  ZBM2 batteries with Thai-made battery stacks have passed the most “critical” hurdle, are now ready to start filling backorders and it should be easier from here:  “Our first requirement of the new factory is quality components, which it is now producing in the electrode stack – the most complex and critical part of our product,” he said.

“Our pre-delivery tests have confirmed that these complete batteries, using Thai-made stacks and existing battery tank sets, perform to standard, so we are now scheduling deliveries to start supplying outstanding back orders.”

 
 

Red Earth Energy Storage – Product Overview

Red Earth Energy Storage are a Brisbane based company supplying sealed VRLA (lead acid) energy storage modules. They offer three different types of battery depending on whether you need to be grid connected or not. The batteries are modular up to 25kW and all have a five year warranty. Let’s take a further look at their storage options below!

Red Earth Energy Storage

The Red Earth Lead Acid based products can accommodate sizes from 200Ah to 1000Ah. Depth of discharge has a large effect on the lifespan of a lead acid battery – so you should take note of the recommended depth of discharge for your battery – discuss this with the RedEarth engineering staff before you place your order so you know how to get the most out of your battery. But have a look at the image below (provided by RedEarth) for a basic understanding of what you can expect depending on the battery size on your system.

Red Earth Energy Storage Lead Acid VRLA Battery Depth of Discharge Chart
Redearth Lead Acid VRLA Battery Depth of Discharge Chart

Let’s take a look at their three different product lines:

M Series

RedEarth M Series
RedEarth M Series

The M Series provides up to 10kWh of usable storage at 8kW. They offer up to 8kW / 12kW peak via lead acid sealed VRLA batteries (8 x 6V VRLA gel). If you prefer they do have lithium or zinc bromide options. 

  • 5 Year Replacement Warranty
  • Full Remote Monitoring and control via 3G/4G/Wifi
  • On/Off Grid
  • Under eves footprint – no need for battery room or concrete slab. Maintenance free.

Click here to download the M Series Fact Sheet.

S Series

RedEarth S Series
RedEarth S Series

The S Series are an 8kW off-grid electricity storage system that offer up to 3kW / 4.8kW peak via sealed VRLA batteries (8 x 6V VRLA gel up to 443Ah). If you prefer they do have lithium or zinc bromide options. 

  • 5 Year Replacement Warranty
  • Full Remote Monitoring and control via 3G
  • Weatherproof, standalone system which can manage multiple power sources.
  • Modular
  • 650kg

Click here to download the S Series Fact Sheet.

L Series

RedEarth L Series
RedEarth L Series

The L Series is a weatherproof standalone battery system to manage multiple power sources, loads and batteries. It is an on grid or off grid solution and provides up to 33kWh of storage at 8kW/12kW peak via 24x 2V VRLA gel lead acid batteries.  

  • 5 Year Replacement Warranty
  • Hybrid or Standard storage system.
  • Modular – scope up as needed. 
  • Full Remote Monitoring and control via 3G/4G/Wifi

Click here to download the L Series Fact Sheet.

If you’re interested in or have any questions about any of these products please contact us or click here to visit their website.

sonnenProtect 1300/2500 blackout protection

A big week for German battery manufacturing company sonnen who have announced the sonnenBatterie Protect 1300 – also known as the sonnenProtect. This smart device links with an existing sonnen solar battery and detects mains power outages – at which point it quickly and safely switches you across to use your battery storage for selected appliances. They also have the sonnenProtect 2500, which comes with 2.5kW of power output as opposed to the 1.3kW the 1300 offers. 

A common misconception about solar+storage is that you’ll have power during a blackout. Without something like the sonnen Protect this isn’t the case. 

sonnenProtect aka Sonnen Protect 2500
sonnenProtect aka Sonnen Protect 1300/2500 (source: sonnen)

sonnenProtect 1300, 2500 – Sonnen Protect

The sonnen Protect is installed close to the battery system and offers up to 1.3kW of power output (i.e. you can’t run a bunch of air conditioners off it but it’ll keep a modern fridge up and keep your lights on, run a laptop, charge your phone, run fans, etc.). It will give you a single protected power point – from here, depending on your budget, you can use extension cords and plug boards through your house, run cables to defined backup power points, or even run new cables in your walls to defined power points. Keep in mind that with the current option each power point will be limited to 2.5kW load or 1.3kW with the sonnen 1300.

The device can be retrofitted to all existing sonneBatterie Eco models, which are modular and start at just 2kWh up to 16kWh in the same cabinet. You can chain multiple cabinets together if you need more than that. 

sonnen made the news last year with their ‘free power’ offering via the sonnenFlat service, so this is another great offering from a renewable energy giant (they are the world’s largest home storage battery company)

Sonnen Protect Specifications, Size, Price

  • 15cm wide
  • 19cm high
  • 12cm deep
  • 800grams

Depending on what sort of solution you’d like (with regards to power points and running new wires in the walls), the install for a sonnenProtect 2500 is generally under $1,000 AUD.

If you’re interested in the sonnenProtect for your house please shoot us an email at [email protected] or fill out the form to your right and we’ll be in touch.

Download sonnenProtect 1300 datasheet (click here to download)

Download sonnenProtect 2500 datasheet (click here to download)

Download sonnenProtect 2500 Operating Instructions (click here to download)

sonnen in South Australia – HQ, manufacturing plant.

sonnen in South Australia – the German battery manufacturing giant (which is also the world’s largest home storage energy company) have announced that they’re going to move their Australian headquarters from Sydney to Adelaide. The announcement was made last week during a huge week for renewables in SA – with the upcoming election both major parties have promised $100m in solar loans for South Australian residents.  

sonnen in South Australia

Along with the administrative tasks (i.e. the ‘headquarters’) of sonnen’s Australian operations, they’ll also be setting up a full energy storage manufacturing facility in the state.

Chris Parratt, the Australian boss of sonnen’s Australasian business, said the company will have a solar battery manufacturing facility ‘up and running’ in Adelaide within six to nine months.  According to the Australian Financial Review, Parratt says the facility will be able to produce 10,000 systems a year, including sonnen’s flagship sonnenBatterie line. He noted that they are looking at four separate locations in Adelaide, including the former Holden car manufacturing site and the former Mitsubishi car-making factory in Tonsley Park precinct. 

sonnen in South Australia
sonnen in South Australia – sonnenBatterie eco 8.2 (source: sonnen.com.au)

Parratt noted that sonnen have set up a similar facility in Atlanta in the United States of America in a fast timeline last year telling a press conference (along with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill) that they’re confident in scope management:

“We believe in about six to nine months we’ll be producing our first energy storage system,” he said. 

sonnen already have 30,000 household batteries installed in Germany, making them the world’s largest home storage energy company. 

It looks like this will go ahead regardless of whether Weatherill’s incumbent party or the South Australian Liberal leader Steven Marshall wrests control of the state – the latter is against renewable energy targets but has also committed to a $100m means-tested subsidy for up to 40,000 households to get interest free solar loans. 

Weatherill was quick to extol the employment ramifications of the move, having been told he was “doubling down to chase his losses” by federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg last week with regards to raising the RET from 50% to 75%:

“We saw yesterday I was accused of being a problem gambler. Well today, South Australia has hit the jobs jackpot,” Mr Weatherill said, referring to Sonnen’s plans, which will create 130 new immediate jobs, rising to 190 by the end of the year, and then another 300 jobs for trades people to install the batteries.

It’s shaping up to be a very interesting election in South Australia. Who are you voting for, and why? Let us know in the comments. 

 
 

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 successfully started manufacturing core components 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. 

ACT’s Next Generation Energy Storage Program

The ACT’s Next Generation Energy Storage Program will provide solar batteries to over 5,000 homes and businesses by 2020, offering $25m of funding so ACT residents are able to take advantage of rapidly evolving solar battery technology at a subsidised price. 

Next Generation Energy Storage Program

Next Generation Energy Storage Program in the ACT (source: actsmart.act.gov.au)
Subsidised Solar Batteries – Next Generation Energy Storage Program in the ACT (source: actsmart.act.gov.au)

According to ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury there are plans to increase the current amount of storage by up to 36x by 2020: 

“We’ve already had around 400 batteries installed across the city. It’s providing over a megawatt of storage which is both helping households cut their energy bills, manage their own energy usage, but also provide backup for the grid here in the Territory,” he said.

“The battery storage roll-out program is building on Canberra’s reputation as a globally-recognised hub for the renewable energy industry,” Mr Rattenbury was quoted as saying – noting that the program will offer support of up to $825 for each kilowatt of sustained peak output for homes and businesses who install a battery (it can be connected to a new or existing PV solar system). The government estimates that this will represent a subsidy of approximately $4,000 for an average household solar system. 

Six partners have been awarded $3m in grants to help fund the project: ActewAGL Retail, Energy Matters, EPC Solar, Evergen, ITP Renewables, Origin Energy, Power Saving Centre, and Solar Hub. EPC Solar and Evergen were already in the project, the rest are new additions. 

Mr Rattenbury also noted that this project will also help expand the virtual power plant Reposit Power and EvoEnergy are currently trialling: 

“The batteries are also contributing to the world’s largest residential virtual power plant being trialled by Reposit Power and EvoEnergy (formerly ActewAGL Distribution), which allows battery owners to sell their energy to the grid to help support the electricity network.”

For more information and how to apply, click here to download the actsmart battery storage fact sheet

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. 

Tesla Battery in South Australia completed.

Elon Musk’s 100MW Tesla Battery in South Australia has been completed – well ahead of its December 1 operation deadline. The array of Tesla Powerpack batteries will be tested over the coming days and we can expect the system to be fully live by next Friday.

Tesla Battery in South Australia 

Tesla Battery in South Australia
Tesla Battery in South Australia (source: Tesla)

The Tesla South Australia battery partnership was first inked back in July when Musk partnered with Neoen and signed an agreement with the South Australian government to create the world’s largest lithium-ion battery. The battery farm is powered by Neoen’s 315MW Hornsdale wind farm and is located adjacent to it in Jamestown, about 200 kilometres north of Adelaide. 

The $50 million system is capable of outputting 129MWh and can be used as baseline power during summer peak loading periods, where it can provide enough energy to power 30,000 homes for eight hours, or 60,000 for four. While this might not seem like a lot and one wonders if another company could have done it for cheaper (91 groups bid for the project), it’s definitely been a great way to raise awareness of energy storage in Australia and its rapidly rising uptake (and rapidly decreasing cost). 

It’s important to note that the Tesla battery is far from a panacea for South Australia’s energy woes – as Tony Wood, the energy program director at the Grattan Institute, told the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Over time, storage can help put downward pressure on prices because it can flatten out peak demand,” Wood said.

“It’s a very useful step in the right direction … but it doesn’t solve South Australia’s problem, even at that scale.”

In the meantime, Tesla continues to burn through cash at the rate of $8,000 USD / minute as they struggle to get on top of the Model 3 rollout. What does this mean for the Powerwall 3? The next 12 months will be extremely interesting for Elon Musk and his ‘blue sky’ investors – we hope they’re able to get all their ducks in a row and Musk can start making Tesla more cashflow positive. 

In the meantime, let’s see how Tesla’s battery works over summer for South Australia! 

Adani’s Whyalla Solar Farm greenlit

India based energy company Adani have received development approval for a $200 million, 140MW Whyalla solar farm. The farm will consist of PV solar modules and operate on a single axis tracking system. 

Adani’s Whyalla Solar Farm

Whyalla Solar Farm Adani
Whyalla Solar Farm (source: @AdaniAustralia on Twitter)

The solar plant will be located 10km north of Whyalla’s centre, on the Port Lincoln Highway. It will originally generate 100MW and the potential capacity of the solar plant will be up to 140MW. According to AdelaideNow, grid connection will be via the 132kv network between the Whyalla Centra and Cultana substations.

Although the original development application didn’t include any information about battery storage, this is an option that Adani is also investigating. 

No PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) has been signed yet, but as soon as that is sorted out we will see a starting date for construction of the farm – which is expected to be some time in 2018. The plant should be generating renewable energy by 2019. The construction phase of this solar farm is expected to create 350 jobs and could be “just the tip of the iceberg” for Whyalla, Giles MP Eddie Hughes told news.com.au last year. 

“Since 1998 Whyalla has wanted to become the solar capital,” said Mr Hughes. “It’s the realisation of the dream to have a major proponent come to us.”

Other Whyalla Solar Projects

News of Adani’s solar farm comes off the back of Zen Energy approving a $700m solar, battery and pumped-hydro storage project to power Zen Energy owner Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty OneSteel works in Whyalla. The project is expected to provide 1 gigawatt (1000MW) and also  100MW/100MWh battery storage. Hopefully, this will also provide some help to the real estate market in Whyalla, which has dropped by 21% in 2017 so far. 

Adani also has another $100m solar farm in Moranbah awaiting DA from the Isaac Regional Council.