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Meanwhile, in Australia: Innovative Storage Quietly Being Installed

Nigel Morris's picture
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  • May 15, 2015 3:00 pm GMT
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Tesla captured the world’s attention with its announcement of a new storage solution recently. What was perhaps most telling for Australians is that they singled out the land down under is a key market for the technology.

Our high solar insolation levels and electricity prices combine with falling residential consumption and feed in tariffs. Put them together and what have you got?

Disruption and opportunity.

Disruption and opportunity breeds innovation and there is no shortage of it in Australia.

Our solar industry has been quietly ramping up a growing variety of solar storage solutions for some time now and there are some fascinating and clever solutions emerging. They may not have the billionaire flair of an International media sensation but guess what? They are already being installed in Australian homes.

Some of the innovation is based on new products. Some of it is based on new ways of solving the same problem, arguably a speciality of the Aussie innovator.

One Queensland Company has looked at the problem (“I want storage”) and the barriers (“it’s still pretty expensive”) and the ideal (“I’d love to go off grid”) and they have developed an interesting take on the solution.

Nathan Gathercole from Giant Power put it like this. “One of the biggest challenges in selling storage solutions for solar homes is that there are a myriad of variables. Load shape, consumption patterns, solar input, storage chemistry and electricity tariffs just to name a few. Designing a perfect fit for the entire home and maintaining a high level of reliability is not impossible, but it is complex.”

Gathercole and his team went outside the box and have come up with a solution that they reckon is a no-brainer.

“Some elements of a home’s load are more predictable and manageable than others. We focus on these loads and match them to the excess being generated by typical solar systems and then, take that part of the home off-grid. We isolate part of the load and match it to excess that would otherwise be almost given away but can back it up with the grid, maintaining reliability, battery life and uptime.”

Their system uses equipment sourced from Australia and Taiwan, is storage chemistry agnostic, is locally packaged into a fully integrated solution which makes the system easier to install and factory assembly assures the interrelationship between components.

By limiting and controlling the load on the storage system, the cost of the equipment is reduced. But by being “off-grid ready”, transitioning to a full off grid solution is made easier. “One customer described our system as being like a “gateway drug” for off-grid solar!” quipped Gathercole.

The company does offer more traditional bi-directional systems too, but has found huge interest in this type of solution due to its simplicity and lower cost.  Along with a handful of selected distributors, the product has found favour with one of Australia’s largest electrical distributors too, with Laurence and Hansen (L&H) recently adding almost the entire suite of off grid and hybrid packages to their product range. 

According to Gathercole, L&H were looking for a simple, well-engineered package that contractors could understandand and gave them an easy entry into the burgeoning storage market. “We haven’t developed a piece of art for your wall, because frankly we don’t think that’s where demand is right now. Sure there will be niche’s, but we think we can play our little part in opening up the world of storage to Australia by making simpler, industrial style products”

There are clearly a variety of sub markets within the greater storage market in Australia and it will be intriguing to watch which ones emerge and how they will change over time. 

This particular solution is a classic example of how Australia is likely to play a key role in the global storage market by being creative.

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Peter Lang's picture
Peter Lang on May 22, 2015

“Some elements of a home’s load are more predictable and manageable than others. We focus on these loads and match them to the excess being generated by typical solar systems and then, take that part of the home off-grid. We isolate part of the load and match it to excess that would otherwise be almost given away but can back it up with the grid, maintaining reliability, battery life and uptime.”

Using the gird in that way and paying per per energy for only the small amount of electricity obtained from the grid cannot last.  We’re alreay looking at how we can get those who have solar panels to pay their fair share of the electricity infrastructure charges.

Alistair Newbould's picture
Alistair Newbould on May 23, 2015

You could say the same thing about solar hot water heating – less input in winter leaves peak demand high at that time. Could say the same about insulation for the same reason. I read this to include demand such as deep freezes. Powering them by solar makes sense AND drops potential peak demand as in a traditional system the motor could kick in at any time – peak or otherwise. So the described system can also cut peaking. As described they are also cutting peak supply into the grid. If I understand it correctly the grid dislikes load variability as much as anything. By taking the variable solar off grid you ease that problem – clouds coming or going during the day are difficult for the grid to deal with on scale – this is eliminated by the system described. Ice airconditioning, or “day-store” heaters would be other clear examples. Provided the individual premises drops peak demand as well as total, or moves it’s peak demand to what is off peak for the rest of the grid, I can only see this “storage” system being a win for the owner the grid and emissions reduction

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