Energy Renaissance, CSIRO join forces on “defence grade” battery management system

The energy storage hopeful behind plans to build Australia’s first gigawatt-scale lithium-ion battery factory has joined forces with the CSIRO to develop a home gown, “defence grade” battery management system, or BMS.

Energy Renaissance, which is this year building a $28 million solar powered battery plant in Tomago[1], New South Wales, said on Thursday that it was also jointly funding a $A1.46 million BMS project with Australia’s national science agency and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC).

The BMS, which acts as the “nerve centre” of the battery and is critical to its operating efficiency, will monitor and report on the battery’s usage, lifespan and faults through a mobile network to Energy Renaissance and its customers.

Communicating through an inverter, the system will also enable secure real time data, analytics and remote management to drive down risk of failure and operating costs for grid-scale energy storage users.

Energy Renaissance’s director of technology and development, Brian Criaghead, said the BMS project meant that the company could offer customers a complete and uncomplicated plug-and-play battery energy storage solution that was put together in Australia, for the Australian market.

“The collaboration between Energy Renaissance, CSIRO, and IMCRC will promote an Australian Battery Management System instead of relying on an overseas technology platform,” Craighead said.

“Working together with CSIRO will ensure we can create a world-class defence-grade cybersecure Battery Management System that is fully developed and managed in Australia for critical energy storage infrastructures.”

The CSIRO, which is developing the software underpinning the BMS, is working to three key goals: to make the Energy Renaissance batteries safer, more affordable and optimised to operate in high temperature environments.

Adam Best, a principal research scientist at CSIRO, has been seconded to work with Energy Renaissance on the project as part of the Morrison government’s Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing roadmap, unveiled at the start of the month.

“Our partnership with Energy Renaissance validates CSIRO’s capabilities to collaborate, train and transfer skills for the advanced manufacturing of batteries,” Best said.

“We’ll be focusing in on the software aspects of the BMS itself and we’ll also be looking after the cyber security aspects of the work as well,” Best told RenewEconomy, adding that an in-built cyber-security layer to the BMS would be an “important differentiator” in a crowded market.

“Energy Renaissance are having conversations with their customers about what their needs are and this is definitely responding to some of those needs around making sure that they have that security system,” Best said.

“That’s something that [the CSIRO] as an organisation are constantly involved in … to ensure that we’re providing the best quality products and services that complement Australian technology.”

“Being able to opt in for a cyber secure BMS is a very big deal,” added Craighead. “Our ambition is certainly to be a provider to the defence industry, and that has guided a lot of our product design. But it’s not just defence, it’s anybody with corporate governance that is looking after networks where batteries are gonna be plugged in.

“Security is a back-of-brain concern until an event makes it a front-of-brain concern,” he said. “So solving it now instead of worrying about it in a panic is certainly the right thing to do. So we think that would be a big deal.”

Craighead says that the plan is for the BMS for it to be ready to roll-out at the same time as the company’s official launch of its superStorage family of batteries, slated for the end of April.

Energy Renaissance says its batteries will target a range of stationary storage applications including commercial and industrial, microgrids, community storage, mining electrification, and defence, as well as heavy transport applications.

“Anything from 100 kilowatt-hours to 5-10 megawatt-hours, that’s probably our sweet spot, we’re very good in that space; our systems will be more affordable, will be much easier to implement,” Craighead told RE.

“And then Australia and south-east Asia, for us, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and India – in those markets we will have a pretty strong offering.”

As for the Tomago giga-factory, Craighead says this is on track to be ready for Energy Renaissance to take occupancy in September. But until then, the plan is to open a smaller, temporary facility nearby, where the company will be producing batteries at a scale of 2-3MWh a month from July.

“Partly that’s to meet sales demand, but it’s mostly to make sure we’ve kind of figured out any wrinkles in our process before we move into the main facility,” he said.

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