As batteries slowly assume their role as integral suppliers of stability and services to their owners and the grid, the consequences of mismanagement – intentional or otherwise – will become severe.

“If history has told us anything [about adoption of new technology], in the blink of an eye after a few events security goes from being in the back the head to the front of our thoughts,” says Energy Renaissance technology and development director Brian Craighead.

To solve this problem Energy Renaissance, an Australian lithium-ion battery manufacturer, has partnered with the CSIRO to develop a defence-grade cybersecure battery management system (BMS) for its range of batteries.

The software will include a cybersecurity layer that will allow encryption at both ends to protect the security of data transferred between the battery and client or monitoring service.

“We’re talking about sovereign development,” Craighead says. “It will be written here, tested here and managed here.”

The battery market is “maturing”, Craighead says. “It’s a little bit spotty.” To his knowledge, the levels of encryption written into battery management systems may not be robust enough to deter nefarious activity. “You have to design from the ground up for this level of security.”

Simple and reliable

To decarbonise the grid, renewables need to replace coal and gas. Storage will act as a vital leveller of supply and demand. A battery-maker must be competitive and reliable. It’s technology must also be easily integrated into the grid. But the energy landscape is changing rapidly. No-one can say definitively how the grid will evolve.

“The integrator’s life is a misery just now; they have to learn half a dozen different systems and they’re always changing,” Craighead says. For him, the goal is to simplify the technology, reduce the cost and increase uptake. A big part of the cost, he says, is integration of battery management with different inverters and battery systems. “We are hoping to tackle that head-on.”

The opportunities for things to go awry multiply as storage is integrated into a multitude of systems, which includes the grid, building management systems, energy management systems, microgrids and so on. A simple system with local support will, he hopes, make it easier to rollout batteries.

“It doesn’t always have to be an informed and nefarious lurking actor,” he says. “It can be learning by mistakes.”

The battery management software will be exclusive to Energy Renaissance as part of its superStorage rack, a range of storage solutions in development that will include stationary applications (rack-based battery systems from about 50kWh to 5MWh to start with) and transport applications (buses, vans, light commercial).

The company will move into a 4,500-square-metre facility in Tomago, NSW, in October, where it expects to produce up to 15MW a month. Before then, it aims to produce about 2MW a month at a smaller facility to meet demand and “iron out any process wrinkles before we move into the larger facility”.

The company has ambitions to source every component locally, bar the cells. “We’re basically using different prismatic cells – bricks of energy – and putting them into the same rack, the same module and using the same BMS. From a manufacturer’s perspective, we’ve got it as simple as we can.”

The $1.46 million BMS project is jointly funded by Energy Renaissance, the CSIRO and Innovative Manufacturing CRC, a not-for-profit, independent cooperative research centre.

How much is too much

CSIRO principal research scientist Adam Best has been seconded to Energy Renaissance to work on the project in addition to the Commonwealth government’s battery minerals roadmap that will incorporate Australian resources into the batteries that Energy Renaissance will produce.

“The BMS is the brains of the battery,” Best tells EcoGeneration. “It controls the cells in terms of their charge and discharge profiles and gives information about state of charge and state of health, which is critical to the longevity of the product.”

An initial step, he says, is to work out what threats are worth guarding against and which ones are so challenging that they would make a BMS uneconomical. “Understanding the threat matrix, what we’re trying to exclude and … do that in an affordable and secure environment is critical.”

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