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      Generation & Storage — 6 mins read

      Are batteries the sleeping giant we should be talking about?

      The hype around green hydrogen is understandable. A wealth of renewable opportunity opens up if we get it right. However, does the focus on hydrogen mean we’re failing to exploit the full potential of battery technology?

      According to the Future Charge: Building Australia’s Battery Industries report, diversified battery industries could contribute $7.4 billion every year to the Australian economy. This would support 34,700 jobs by 2030.*

      We spoke to Shannon O'Rourke, the CEO of the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC), which commissioned the 2021 report, about the extraordinary economic opportunity right under our noses.

      ‘Global players are benefiting from the development of a battery industry being built off the back of Australian resources, and we deserve to take a greater economic share of this burgeoning industry,’ he said.

      Current state of battery play

      While Australia punches above its weight on a per capita basis, there’s plenty of competition.
      Shannon rates Japan as the clear leader in battery innovation, overtaking South Korea. China dominates battery manufacture midstream, with China and US as the world’s largest energy consumers.

      ‘We are world leading in mining, mineral processing, and have strong capability in chemical and process engineering,' he said.

      "We also have experience in grid, micro-grid applications and are world leaders in remote stand-alone power.’

      According to the FBICRC, Australia could double its economic gains by diversifying and developing capability in advanced materials, cell manufacturing and automated module manufacturing. This would build a minimum capability across the entire chain.

      As Shannon said, Australia has half the market share for critical battery minerals. Despite our abundance of finite resources, we only capture 0.5% of the total value of these minerals.

      ‘Time is running out for Australia to stake its claim and play a leading role.’

      From Hornsdale big battery to now

      Tesla’s battery plant in South Australia was the world’s largest lithium ion battery when commissioned in 2017, with its 100MW/129MWh capacity.*

      The volume weighted average price for the pack and cell was (originally) US$226/kWh. In 2021, the cost has roughly halved to US$132/kWh.*

      ‘Battery technology continues to evolve, especially at utility scale. Pumped hydro, sodium sulphur and vanadium flow compete with lithium in the utility battery space,' Shannon said.

      'Novel flow batteries, like ESS Iron Flow Battery and Zinc-Air systems have potential to reduce costs even further.’

      Shannon views the proposed Eraring 700MW/2800MWh battery in NSW – more than four times the size of Hornsdale – as arguably the most exciting development to replace retiring coal-fired generators.*

      Can hydrogen and batteries co-exist?

      Hydrogen and batteries are complementary, rather than competing technologies, he said. ‘Hydrogen fuel cells are just a type of battery. What hydrogen does well is large capacity storage and heat, but that comes at a high cost,' he said.

      ‘Because hydrogen is inefficient to produce and transport, the best way to think about hydrogen is as an ultrapremium fuel that you want to conserve. Batteries are used together with hydrogen to help conserve that fuel.

      ‘In most applications, direct electrification will be better than introducing hydrogen into the mix.’
      It’s horses for courses. Hydrogen is useful in heavy industry, agriculture and petrochemicals. Yet ‘huge diversity’ in batteries offers greater efficiency and flexibility.

      ‘For example, lightweight, high-power density NCM batteries are ideal for high performance electric vehicles. Whereas low density, iron flow batteries are better suited to long duration storage. Lead acid and zinc-bromine gel batteries are most suitable for back-up applications.’

      New battery technology ahead

      What’s around the corner?

      • Solid state batteries with improved safety and performance. VW and QuantumScape aim for 2024 release.*
      • Lithium sulfur batteries with 50% improvement over advanced NCM batteries. Commercial application some way off.
      • Home batteries advancing, with availability of Encharge 10 (Enphase)*, ZBM3 flow battery (Redflow)* and V40 flow battery (UltraEnergy)*.
      • Vehicle to grid (V2G) technology can power your home with an EV. But not cost-effective yet.

      *Balance and drive are essential, Shannon said.

      ‘An ideal energy mix will have a lot of high-capacity factor renewables (like hydro, geothermal, wind, concentrated solar thermal), together with short and long-duration battery storage delivering safe, reliable and affordable energy to the grid.

      ‘By the end of this decade, the industry will have substantial capacity and will have consolidated. If Australia wants a sovereign capability that is relevant today, we need to build a battery industry for Australia.’

      Sources:
      * https://fbicrc.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Future-Charge-Report-Final.pdf
      * https://reneweconomy.com.au/tesla-big-battery-in-south-australia-delivers-stunning-windfall-profits-77644/
      * https://about.bnef.com/blog/battery-pack-prices-fall-to-an-average-of-132-kwh-but-rising-commodity-prices-start-to-bite/
      * https://cleantechnica.com/2021/01/12/new-south-wales-will-host-new-700-mw-2800-mwh-battery-storage-installation/
      * https://www.saftbatteries.com/media-resources/our-stories/three-battery-technologies-could-power-future
      * https://enphase.com/sites/default/files/2021-04/Encharge-10-DS-EN-US.pdf
      * https://redflow.com/zbm3-battery
      * https://www.ultraenergy.com.au/
      * https://arena.gov.au/assets/2021/01/revs-the-a-to-z-of-v2g.pdf

       

      Wendy Riley, Energy Insights

      Energy Monthly

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      March 25, 2024 | Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park

      Australian Domestic Gas Outlook 2024

      June 11, 2024 | Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

      Australian Energy Week 2024

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