A South Australian architecture firm has tapped a home grown energy storage solution to get around a power supply problem that cropped up in the process of giving a 1916 building a 21st Century makeover.
Williams Burton Leopardi has installed 60kWh of zinc-bromine flow batteries – pictured above – made by Brisbane-based company Redflow, in the basement of the heritage-listed Darling Building in the Adelaide CBD, as part of a clever power management system.
The company bought the five storey building to transform into its inner-city headquarters, but soon discovered it would use more power – once the $4 million renovation was complete – than the local grid could supply.
The peak power draw during summer was calculated at 290 amps, while SA Power Networks could initially supply only 150 amps, although this was later revised upwards to 200 amps.
Williams Burton Leopardi director David Burton said some of the more traditional solutions to the problem were so expensive they would have made the renovated building commercially unviable.
“We didn’t have the space in the building for a transformer; gas would cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars and ‘winging it’ was not an option,” he said.
“During a conversation with Simon Hackett, who was a client with his Base64 redevelopment, he said
‘you need a battery as a peak management system’.
Hackett – an Adelaide-based tech entrepreneur – also happens to be a chairman of Redflow and was even, for a time, the company’s CEO.
He himself has installed a container-size unit that contains 60 Redflow ZBM3 batteries (660kWh) at Base64, which can reportedly run the 50-person premises for at least four days.
But it wasn’t just this connection that led to Redflow’s batteries being installed in the Darling Building’s basement. In the end, it came down to the chemistry.
“Lithium-ion batteries would’ve cost us a lot more to completely fire-rate the room,” Burton said.
“With the Redflow batteries, we just open the windows and a fan circulates the air.”
And while getting approval for the six Redflow batteries to go in the basement was no easy thing, either, in the end Burton says the Metropolitan Fire Service acknowledged they complied with all the relevant building codes, and did not present the same fire risk as lithium-ion batteries.
Now, the batteries, installed by Solar Depot along with with three 7.5kW Selectronic SP Pro inverters, are mostly used to step in when demand outstrips the grid’s supply capacity.
The revamped Darling Building has new lighting, air conditioning, kitchen facilities and washing machines and dryers on each floor, as well as a fully-rebuilt heritage-listed elevator.
But the battery system is also configured for arbitrage – to buy cheap grid power to recharge the battery at times of low demand, and then to “dribble energy” into the building’s load when power prices spike and demand is high.
“For what we want to do, zinc-bromine batteries are ideal,” he said. “ZBM2s can deep cycle without damaging the battery and they embody the concept of simplicity and look quite nice in their rows.”
And speaking as an architect, Burton says that Redflow-based energy storage systems offer an “exciting opportunity” for other building projects.
“One battery system could support several buildings,” he said. “With solar on the roof, you’d get a lot of power in, so it could operate as a mini storage facility and power station – if the statutory regs allow that kind of thing to start happening.”