Australian invention poised to revolutionise renewable energy market

The challenge of making renewable energy generation a reliable process is the issue and the opportunity of the 21st century.

Currently, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are limited by problems relating to intermittency and storage issues; energy from wind and the sun can be unreliable. The breeze doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, and previously there has been no reliable, safe and economical storage solution to fill the gap. Renewable energy also suffers from volatility, where sudden changes in weather conditions can cause fluctuations in output which in turn can lead to grid instabilities.

Innovative Australian company Ecoult is leading the charge to overcome these obstacles through a revolutionary battery storage system featuring brand new technology invented and incubated by the CSIRO in Australia. The new venture will change the role solar and wind energy play in the electricity market by smoothing the volatility of renewable power, and allowing it to be integrated seamlessly into the grid.

This project is supported by corporate, government and research partners around the world, including United States-based parent East Penn Manufacturing, who produce the UltraBattery®. In Australia, Ecoult’s research partnership with CSIRO is maximising the potential of the storage energy system via smart algorithms that can analyze weather pattern history to prepare the storage system in advance for predicted weather conditions. In Japan, a technology alliance was formed with Furukawa Battery who worked with the CSIRO to the development of the UltraBattery solution.

Energy Storage: Holy Grail of the Renewable Industry

Ecoult’s Chief Executive Officer John Wood has over 20 years’ experience as a technology CEO, four of which he has spent pioneering solutions in the energy storage community.

“It’s probably the biggest question to solve in order to eventually move into a renewable cycle, rather than remaining in a consumption cycle of burning finite resources and accumulating by-products like CO2. Solving the storage issue will accelerate this end,” Mr Wood said.

While this has been an issue for some time, current storage solutions are simply not cost effective, and price renewable energy out of the market compared with fossil fuels.

“In dollar terms, it currently costs around three to four cents per kWh to produce power from coal and six to 20 cents per kWh for energy from renewable sources.

“But once you’ve harnessed energy from the wind or the sun, it can cost a further 10 cents per kWh to store and retrieve it using energy storage, and even then you don’t get everything back as some power is lost in that transfer.”

The conditions are now right to solve the issue of storage. Energy from renewable sources, rather than fossil fuels, can now be more effectively used. The availability of improved storage, at lower cost, will effectively integrate intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power into the electrical grid.

Ecoult technology is unparalleled in the market

Ecoult’s breakthrough UltraBattery technology – the next generation hybrid long-life lead acid battery – allows the management of fluctuations in the power generation process. This ensures that stable, reliable energy is available whenever and wherever it is needed.

Ecoult’s energy storage solutions are the number one choice for wind and solar farms, grid ancillary services, and remote microgrid systems.

Key benefits of the UltraBattery are the low cost and long-life of the storage technology. UltraBattery offers the most advantageous combination of high cycling life and high conversion efficiency. It provides access to business models that are not only the lowest cost solution using energy storage, but that also cost less than using peaking gas turbines.

A unique feature of the UltraBattery is the capacitor integrated into its chemistry, inhibiting the build-up of hard sulphate deposits which shorten the life of the battery. This capacitor means the UltraBattery does not need to be frequently overcharged like other lead acid batteries, and it will operate more effectively and consistently for longer.

Independent testing of UltraBattery showed that its cycle performance was about 13 times that of a comparable AGM VRLA battery in a test of grid variability management. Ecoult’s own testing has shown that the UltraBattery can process more energy throughout the battery life than standard VRLA batteries.

Ecoult accompanies customers through the entire lifecycle of the energy storage solution, from identifying the best configuration for individual customer requirements, to providing simple, safe and complete storage platforms that are ready for custom integration. The performance of the energy storage solution is continuously monitored to ensure the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

The UltraBattery technology allows efficient integration of renewable energy sources, making it a major driver in decreasing CO2 emissions. It is also recyclable. At the end of a project, Ecoult can collect the batteries from the site, replace and recycle them according to ISO 14001 certification standards.

Real technology delivering real results

Ecoult’s UltraBattery has already been used in the PJM Regulation Services project in Pennsylvania and the PNM Solar Energy Smoothing and Shifting project in New Mexico, featuring one of the largest combinations of battery storage and photovoltaic energy in the United States, supported by the United States Department of Energy. UltraBattery is also being used locally at the Hampton Wind Farm in Australia’s Blue Mountains, in a project funded by the Australian Government.

The experience gained from advanced battery projects such as these, and others implemented in the United States and Australia in the coming months, will be used to integrate UltraBattery further into the commercial marketplace and make it available to an even wider spectrum of applications.

Ecoult is always evolving to meet new challenges

Competing in the field of variability management and energy shifting, Ecoult is making it easier to integrate more renewable energy into the grid.

“Our technology is at the forefront in the variability management market,” said CEO John Wood.

“But if you’re operating in the bulk energy storage market today, that’s very difficult to do in a way that’s competitive with areas of traditional generation - yet.

“It’s our goal to become competitive very quickly in variability management, which will allow us to then focus our efforts on solving the bulk storage issue.”

The great support Ecoult has had from the Australian, United States and Japanese governments, along with its strong commercial and research partnerships, will allow the company to continue its exploration into large-scale energy storage solutions as well as smaller systems based on the UltraBattery and other technology breakthroughs currently in the R&D phase. These future systems will allow businesses and individuals to integrate renewables into the grid, making it truly omnipresent technology and speeding the transition to a renewables-based economy.

These developments will help solve the most pressing issue of our time – making renewable energy available, reliable and preferred worldwide.