Large scale battery storage

In Australia, traditionally electricity is generated power stations where fossil fuels such as coal or gas are burned to boil water and produce steam which spins a turbine. The turbine moves a magnet in a coil of wires to generate electricity. Fossil fuel power stations can run 24 hours a day so long as there is enough coal or gas to ‘feed’ them.

In Tasmania, most of the electricity is generated using hydro generators, where falling water drives the turbines.

Australia is now moving toward using additional renewable energy sources to generate electricity, such as wind and solar energy. These resources are less reliable because the sun is not always shining and the wind is not always blowing.

Even hydroelectricity becomes an issue in Tasmania when there is a drought.

A system is needed to fill in the gaps to electricity supply. Generating electricity from coal is a process that runs at a steady rate and is not very flexible. It is very difficult to turn off and on quickly or regulate so that the amount of electricity produced can be changes as needed.

Large-scale storage batteries combined with control systems for using them is a good solution. Just a few years ago, people thought it wasn’t possible store electricity, but we have quickly realised that we can. In South Australia, a giant lithium ion battery was installed in late 2017 to store electricity generated by the state’s wind turbines. Shortly after it was finished, it was able to respond within milliseconds to a power outage in a conventional coal-fired power station.

Victoria and the Northern Territory are also installing large-scale battery storage systems.

Research is taking place on different types of batteries to develop cheaper and smaller batteries and to develop different batteries for different uses. For example, a battery that responds very quickly with a lot of energy would be useful is some situations, while a battery that lasts for many hours would be useful in different situations.