New round of home battery testing to review eight new technologies

ITP Renewables has announced that its Battery Testing Centre program will be extended for a third phase out to 2022, off the back of an additional $420,000 of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

This latest phase of testing will assess the performance of eight new residential scale batteries that are deemed to be significant to the Australian market due to their novel technology, local design and assembly, or the strong existing presence of the manufacturer in the industry.

Phase One of the project commenced in 2016 with the integration of eight battery packs into a specialised testing facility at the Canberra Institute of Technology. Phase Two saw this facility expanded to accommodate a further ten battery packs.

The tests provide industry stakeholders with the only independent and publicly available data set on general battery performance, capacity retention, and efficiency.

These results are crucial in guiding the market towards cost-effective storage solutions, as affordability and reliability are key limiting factors in the uptake of renewables.

Phase Three will continue cycling the remaining Phase One and Two batteries until end-of-life, and bring in the following new battery packs:

  1. FIAMM Sonick: A sodium nickel chloride battery, promoted for their high energy density, ability to operate over a large temperature range, and lack of fire risk.
  2. Sonnenbatterie Eco: These lithium iron phosphate batteries are eligible for the battery subsidy recently announced by the South Australian government. As a result, Sonnen has established a manufacturing plant in South Australia. It is likely that a significant number of Sonnenbatteries will be installed under the subsidy.
  3. BYD Battery-Box HV: The low voltage (48VDC) model of the lithium iron phosphate BYD B-Box was installed in Phase 2 of the trial. This high voltage version has a different cell configuration and control mechanism to the LV model.
  4. SolaX Triple Power: SolaX has developed a high-voltage, lithium nickel manganese cobalt battery pack in partnership with Chinese battery manufacturer Shen Zhen BAK Power. The pack is designed for easy integration with SolaX battery inverters.
  5. ABB REACT 2: ABB has recently released the REACT 2, a hybrid (PV/battery) inverter with an integrated battery pack using Samsung lithium-ion cells.
  6. DCS PV 13.5: Deep Cycle Systems (DCS) offer a 13.5kWh lithium iron phosphate battery pack, claiming high round-trip efficiency and cycle life. The battery pack architecture and BMS were developed in Australia, with the cells manufactured in China.
  7. Zenaji Aeon: Zenaji is an Australian company who have designed the LTO Aeon battery, which is warranted for 20 years or 22,000 cycles. Lithium titanate is a promising chemistry which displays excellent thermal stability and lifespan, and the ability to deliver energy over an extremely short period.

An eighth battery, yet to be finalised, will also be included.

Consistent with Phase One and Two, the batteries will be cycled three times daily for a period of 3 years under simulated Australian climate conditions.

Previous phases showed between 85-95% round-trip efficiency (DC) for both lead-acid and lithium-ion technologies, with expected cycle life varying significantly between packs.

While understanding the capacity fade of different battery technologies was initially the key focal point for the testing facility, the results of Phase One and Two have yielded important insights that go beyond battery chemistry and capacity fade.

It was immediately clear that the installation process and inverter integration were critical elements that many manufacturers were not properly addressing. Information provided by suppliers was often incorrect or incomplete, and when combined with technicians’ lack of familiarity with lithium-ion batteries, led to delays in product commissioning.

As most battery packs experienced some degree of technical fault, the efficiency of the manufacturer’s response coupled with product and component availability also proved to be seminal in the end-to-end consumer experience.

The many disruptions and delays experienced by the test facilitators is a telling indication of the state of the home battery market.

Phase Three testing will continue to contribute to the general knowledge base about battery technology in a way that real world deployment will not be able to for many years.

The unique and immediate utility of such insights is of great value not only to consumers, but to researchers, manufacturers, developers, retailers and installers.

The results will also guide the improvement of regulatory requirements, which will contribute to greater market confidence in storage systems and renewables in general.

Six-monthly reporting on the Phase Three batteries will begin in March 2020, with all results to be publicly available through the Battery Test Centre website.

Oliver Woldring is strategy group manager for ITP Renewables

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