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SA Power Outage 2016

Battery Storage of Energy for Power

How do Battery Banks or Energy Storage work?

All energy storage systems have different footprint size, capacity, cost and efficiency, the better battery systems will provide good value for money and last many years past there guarantee period, only then will the investor benefit long after passing the break-even point and the common 10year warranty, from the break-even period onwards it will be all savings/profit, unless component repairs or replacement are needed!

Battery manufacturer should offer warranty that disclose there battery's actual ‘energy throughput’, instead of providing the common ‘cycle life’.  It would be encouraging to see more manufacturers follow this example, showing both figures would assist people in deciding on battery's maximum warranted life. In fact, many battery manufacturers do detail throughput figures in their warranties – if ask for it, as it sometimes shows the true potential of the battery.

No matter what battery/storage system you purchase, you should consider the following;

  1. Cost of the battery bank: Obviously the less you pay the quicker the break-even into profit period is accomplished.
  2. Life of battery storage: That is calculating how long the battery lasts, using the manufacturers energy throughput figures, and divide that figure with your current kW usage.
  3. Kw throughput: This should be covered in manufactures Warranty in detail, it is how much power your battery(s) can produce based on proven usage history.
  4. If you already have Solar: Your break-even point to recoup your investment in batteries will only be from 1~3 years.

When investigating in batteries for energy storage, we strongly recommend purchasing a Hybrid Bi-directional inverter (not a solar inverter), these are compatible with variable system input voltages, these inverters cost from $900~$2'500 depending on the brand and kW rating, if you intend to operate 3 phase power, you may require a 3 phase inverter, or 3 separate inverters.

Without prejudice, we highly recommend Nickel Iron (NiFe) batteries, as it comes down to Cost per kWh, NiFe have the lowest kWh cost and the most proven longest lasting battery invented in the last 100yrs, they don't use Lead nor Acid, they use a cheap & readily available Electrolyte composed of Potassium hydroxide and Lithium hydroxide, that is reported to last minimum 7+ years, and when the electrolyte need replacing it only cost 5~7% of the battery cost, to refresh the batteries for the next 7~10 years!

  • Potassium hydroxide (1.2g/cm3) is an inorganic compound with the formula KOH, and is commonly called caustic potash.
  • Lithium hydroxide (20g/L) is an inorganic compound with the formula LiOH. It is a white hygroscopic crystalline material. It is soluble in water and slightly soluble in ethanol, and is available commercially in anhydrous form and as the monohydrate (LiOH.H2O), both of which are strong bases. It is the weakest base among the alkali metal hydroxides.

As a long term Investment, there are only a few battery types that claim to provide long term reliability, in the following order, Nickel Iron batteries, RedFlow bromide batteries, Tesla Powerwall-2 Lithium Ion batteries, all used for Domestic to medium sized businesses.

NEWS: In January 2017 an Australian company 1414° degrees, who in 2017 introduced a "Molten Silicon Energy Storage System" (Not a battery).  This is a Commercial 10MWh Thermal Energy storage system. Currently there smallest unit is 10MWh system, with an approx. footprint size, of a 40' shipping container and twice as wide, designed for Large scale applications (250+ homes), a 1414° 200MWh system is the size of a two story building, currently these storage systems are Not for households, however it is clamed that a 10~50kWh system, if developed will only require 70cm3 for the molten core of Silicon (Si).

1414° is set to buck the trend in Cost & Reliability, currently reported to cost 1/10 the price of Tesla's large scale battery system!  1414° had its origins in patented CSIRO research, two prototype (10MWh/200MWh) of this "Molten Silicon Storage" device, has been tested at its R&D site south of Adelaide.  The difference being a conventional battery "stores electro-chemical energy", while the "Thermal Energy Storage System" (TESS), stores thermal energy i.e. heat.

What size battery is required to go off-grid?

This is largely dictated by your energy usage, and the black-out proof time needed, if there is no back-up power generation installed!

As a rule of thumb, if your home uses 10kWh of power per 24hr day, then a 10kW battery storage system will be enough to make your household totally independent of the state electricity grid, obviously with Solar, any power consumed during daylight hours will not be sent to the batteries as it is directly consumed via a Hybrid inverter, with only spare power being ported to the batteries via the same inverter, if any additional power is generated via Wind, Aqua &/or Diesel Generator, that will also be ported to via the Hybrid inverter to be consumed or harvested after sunset or as required.

Super Capacitors for Energy Storage:

Super Capacitors (imag-1 image-2) are the latest in Energy storage device, although expensive they make a great addition to any micro grid storage system, Super Capacitor can be wired in Parallel or in Series to produce various voltage up to 750v, a Super Capacitors banks is NOT a chemical battery as such, Super Capacitors can Instantly release the total energy stored, unlike a battery that has a limited energy release!

So why would we use them ?  Well, if you say switch on a Water Heater or Oven that requires high amps to start, then instead of placing the Initial High load on your battery bank, you simply first Draw this power from the Super Capacitor bank, eliminating the load on your batteries, thus extending the life of your batteries, and also, drained Super Capacitors Charge back up in a matter is seconds, compared to batteries.

Charging Batteries or Super Capacity Storage:

Simply put, an auto-start 2.5~10kW silenced Diesel Generator is the easiest, cheapest ($1'500~$6'000), and quickest methods to instantly increase your power production, if set to automatically start when your battery power is low.  Remember whilst our silenced diesel generators are operating, the Hybrid inverter's built-in battery Charge circuit (45~240A) will also charging/toping-up your batteries or Super Capacitors, this way very little fuel is wasted, our generator can be programmed to automatically start & shut-down as required, be it for just a short time several times a day or to just operate long enough to simply charge the batteries to get you through the night if required.

What is the payback time?

If you are thinking of purchasing any Solar Array with Battery storage and Generator, it's worth calculating the cost of the system and compare the saving you can make.

There are four main facts we need to know to give you a rough estimate of your payback timeframe, so get out your most expensive power bill and locate the following information;

  1. Your maximum kWh usage on your largest bill ?
  2. The Electrical Retailer's Supply Service charge ?
  3. The kWh Rate your Electrical Retailer charge you?
  4. If you already have solar panels, what kW size is your Array ?

If you send us the above details we will assist you with a FREE estimation of an Independent Power Grid, we can work around you requirements and can budget a system that can be expanded anytime if required, the main key is purchasing a Hybrid inverter larger than your system requirements, then you will not need to upgrade your inverter if/when you expand your system in the future!

It's also worthwhile checking if there are any state or even local government feed-in Tariffs available for purchasing solar panels &/or a battery storage system.  For example, Adelaide City Council is/was providing feed-in Tariffs of up to $5,000 for installing solar panels or a battery storage system.

Can I use my Battery System to load-shift ?

Yes, battery storage connected to the Grid also offers households without Solar, to take advantage of off-peak electricity prices. The idea is to charge your battery system during off-peak times, and then use the stored electricity during peak times. This is known as load-shifting – but it doesn't make much financial sense unless there is a substantial difference between the day and off-peak power rates.

All batteries can off-set whatever kW of electricity they store, with a small 10kW NiFe battery for domestic use, this equates to a 4 hours charge cycle @$0.28 to $1.12 per day (charging can also be done using up to 240A Charge circuit on a diesel generator), so charging batteries at off-peak rate of *$0.07 c/kWh cost $0.28 per day. This gives a saving of $0.84 per day, or around $307 per year. Assuming your battery bank without the inverter would cost around $9,000, unfortunately this would give a payback time of 29 years.

Will battery storage become cheaper?

Yes, the costs of battery storage systems have been falling at a rapid rate and forecasts are for this trend to continue as more and more households adopt them. For example, the cost of battery storage fell 14% every year on average between 2007 and 2016 and it's expected that prices will halve again within the next five years.

Simply looking at these battery types, it is easy to see the battery cost per kW;

  1. 5.2 kWh Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries cost approx. $2'588 ÷ 5.2kWh =$498 per kW.
  2. 12 kWh Nickel iron (NiFe) batteries cost approx. $6'700 ÷ 12kWh =$560 per kW.
  3. 13.5 kWh Tesla Lithium iron batteries cost approx. $10'000 ÷ 13.5kWh =$740 per kW.
  4. 10 kWh RedFlow Bromide batteries cost approx. $10'000 ÷ 10kWh =$1'000 per kW (Australian).

Clearly leaving NiFe batteries well ahead of thee rest, in price and proven reliability, reported to be over 30 years!

Solar panels are also getting cheaper, with a 75% drop in price over the past five years.

With the global market for solar panels and battery storage expected to grow ten-fold by 2020, the demand for battery systems like Nickel Iron (Non acid), RedFlow (Bromide) and Tesla Powerwall etc. should have flow-on effects on prices as economies of scale kick in.

(*) Guideline cost for Commercial electricity rates in 2016.

Page last updated:1 January, 2018

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