As Australia embarks on its ambitious renewable energy transition, energy storage technologies have emerged as key enablers of a sustainable and circular economy. At the latest instalment of the New Energy Associates Network (NEAN) fireside chat series, Lucas Sadler of Energy Vault, an expert in energy storage and associated technologies, shed light on the benefits and challenges of implementing these solutions at scale.
Energy storage technologies
Lucas acknowledged that while short-duration energy storage solutions have received significant incentives in the market, there is a lack of encouragement for long-duration options. However, the demand for longer-duration energy storage is evident, as the need for stability and energy retention becomes apparent during peak times.
One of the innovative technologies Lucas discussed was gravity-based energy storage, like Energy Vault’s EVxTM storage system. The EVxTM system utilises a mechanical process of lifting and lowering composite blocks to store and dispatch electrical energy. Importantly, Energy Vault mandates that approximately 80% of components for the EVxTM platform must be sourced from predictable regional supply chains, which aligns well with the circular economy model of promoting local production and reducing carbon footprints.
Hydrogen has emerged as a potential energy storage medium. Still, its round-trip efficiency, when compared to modern lithium-ion batteries, typically ranges from 80% to 90%, which is higher than the 40% to 60% range for hydrogen fuel cells. The industry needs to improve this efficiency while managing associated high costs.
Solid-state batteries are among the emerging technologies that may offer solutions to some of the challenges faced by current battery technologies. Combining various technologies, such as mining and hydrogen, could lead to further improvements in the overall energy storage landscape.
Community batteries have also gained attention as a means of localising power generation and distribution. However, the challenge lies in overcoming existing electricity network limitations and the need for changes in the flow of energy. Regulation changes and gamification, where solar energy can be shared, are potential strategies that could be pursued to promote community engagement and acceptance.
A note on Artificial Intelligence
Amid these energy storage advancements, the emergence of AI in energy storage poses both opportunities and risks. The optimisation potential of AI is significant but concerns about cybersecurity and market manipulation must be addressed.
Progressing adoption of energy storage technologies
Lucas emphasised the importance of early community engagement, especially regarding cultural heritage and local job opportunities, to gain social license and foster community buy-in. He considered community equity a potential means to achieve this, by involving local communities in the energy transition and giving them a stake in the process.
As the Australian government plays a significant role in the energy transition, a change in government can significantly impact the renewable energy landscape. The unpredictability of government changes, combined with land and community social licence challenges, makes long-term supply chain planning challenging. Additionally, Australia’s dependence on the international market for renewable goods raises concerns about energy security. Despite the challenges, Lucas remains optimistic, citing growing public support for renewable energy. He believes that with the right incentives, supportive government policies, collaboration, and investment, Australia can play a crucial role in the global renewable energy storage market.
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