Horizon puts battery technologies to test at regional WA microgrids

Western Australian regional energy provider Horizon Power will trial two novel long-duration energy storage technologies – including a zinc-bromine flow battery provided by Queensland manufacturer Redflow – as it seeks to identify new energy storage solutions for off-grid communities dealing with high levels of solar and extreme weather.

Horizon Power will install and trial a 100 kW / 400 kWh zinc bromine flow battery supplied by Australian manufacturer Redflow and a 250 kW / 1,450 kWh sodium sulphur battery to be provided by Germany chemical company BASF, on Western Australian (WA) microgrids at Nullagine and Carnarvon, respectively.

Horizon Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Unwin said the trials, backed by both the federal and WA governments, will provide the state-owned energy utility with valuable operational experience and understanding of the technologies and how they work in regions with high temperatures, which could support future deployment in the regions.

“Horizon Power was an early adopter in battery energy storage, and for the past 15 years we have been exploring how energy storage can best be used to promote increased uptake of renewable energy across regional WA,” she said.

“Our latest trials will continue our exploration of long-duration energy storage (LDES) technologies which are suitable for withstanding the extreme temperatures of our regions, providing valuable insights which will support with future deployment of the batteries in our regions.”

Redflow’s[2] 100 kW zinc bromine flow battery will be put to the test at Nullagine in the Pilbara region, where summer temperatures regularly soar above 40 degrees Celsius. Redflow said it will partner with a WA engineering, procurement and construction service provider for the build and commissioning of the battery.

BASF’s[3] 250 kW sodium sulphur battery, to be deployed at Carnarvon[4] in the Gascoyne region, will be the first of its kind in Australia to connect to a regulated network. Allset Energy will be responsible for the installation of the battery at Canarvon.

Both battery energy storage systems are expected to be deployed by early 2025.

BASF says sodium sulphur battery tech is suited for large-scale energy storage applications of six hours or more and is capable of functioning in extreme heat conditions without the need for air conditioning.

Image: BASF

Horizon said the trial will test each battery’s ability to shift rooftop solar electricity produced in the middle of the day to evening hours as well as demonstrate hybrid operability alongside lithium-ion batteries for optimal network service delivery.

Unwin said Horizon already has a number of lithium-ion batteries installed on networks it operates but has identified a need for longer-duration energy storage technologies to be included in its portfolio.

“Last year, we became the first Australian energy utility to purchase a vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB), for a long-duration energy storage pilot in Kununurra,” she said. “The battery, which arrived in Perth earlier this year, will be deployed to site in coming months.”

Unwin said the LDES trials will provide the Horizon project team with key learnings around how the new technologies can be effectively integrated into its network and test their temperature resilience in regions with extreme weather conditions.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has announced $2.85 million in funding under the Regional Microgrids Program for the $5.7 million trial, said the ability of zinc bromine flow batteries and sodium sulphur batteries[5] to withstand higher ambient temperatures over long periods, while maintaining reliable power with a lower degradation, is particularly important in remote community microgrids and is a distinct advantage over current lithium-ion technology.

ARENA Chief Executive Officer Darren Miller said there is a need to find new sources of medium and long-duration dispatchable renewable energy storage to ensure that people who live in remote areas without grid-connected electricity aren’t left behind in the energy transition.

“Renewable dispatchable technologies such as solar PV and wind combined with lithium-ion battery energy storage systems, and pumped hydro are well established, however, there are characteristics of each that may not be suited to all locations, particularly in locations with extreme heat,” he said.

“Horizon Power’s project, if proven successful, could see these innovative battery technologies become an important part of our energy mix in regional communities.”

If the trial is successful, it is expected the project will help accelerate the rollout of battery energy storage solutions across Horizon Power’s 34 service areas.

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  1. ^ Posts by David Carroll (www.pv-magazine-australia.com)
  2. ^ Redflow’s (www.pv-magazine-australia.com)
  3. ^ BASF’s (www.pv-magazine.com)
  4. ^ Carnarvon (www.pv-magazine-australia.com)
  5. ^ sodium sulphur batteries (www.pv-magazine-australia.com)
  6. ^ editors@pv-magazine.com (www.pv-magazine-australia.com)

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