Australian innovation is leading the path to a cleaner future, writes Ecoult CEO John Wood.

Australia’s abundance of space and sunshine make it an attractive market for the development of renewable and energy storage solutions. These innovations are enabling local businesses to save money on energy costs and operate more sustainably as they integrate renewables into the energy mix. Furthermore, reliance on fossil fuel based energy sources, including diesel generators and coal power stations, has reduced country-wide.

John Wood is chief executive officer of Ecoult.

There is still a long way to go to where we can achieve best practice in Australia and globally for energy needs, but intelligent solutions and decreasing battery costs make it easier to switch to renewable energy sources. Australia’s largest renewable energy island grid project on King Island in Tasmania was able to reduce diesel generator reliance and successfully increase power from renewable sources as a result of implementing an energy storage system.

Across the shore

The demand for diesel generators is rising in developing countries with unreliable grids. For commercial businesses, where power is critical, it can be difficult to operate from the grid or even operate using renewable sources alone. As a convenient, reliable and powerful source, diesel generators are often the first choice for many rural and remote businesses.

In India, the demand for reliable power for commercial industries has contributed to the rising demand for diesel generators. Car-makers will further propel this as demand for vehicles increases from a growing middle class.

There are many applications of energy storage solutions using a hybrid diesel and renewable power system that both reduce costs of supplying electricity and reduce diesel emissions. By implementing energy storage solutions alongside existing diesel generators and small-scale solar generation, rural businesses, villages and major telecoms companies will be able to maintain their existing power needs with less dependence on diesel.

As cities face growth and increased demand for power, there is a risk of major blackouts. Many businesses are starting to look at energy storage solutions as a clean and reliable alternative to diesel generators in critical infrastructure such as hospitals, utilities, data centres and telecommunication towers.

In these kinds of businesses, unpredictable power outages are not just inconvenient but can cause significant economic damage, reduced outputs and pose risks to public health and safety. By drawing power from batteries when there is a power outage, hospitals can better care for patients by keeping tools like diagnostic and surgical equipment on and provide continuous life support. In addition, retailers, utilities and data centres are able to mitigate the financial loss of a blackout by using batteries to keep refrigeration and heating systems on in shops, manage critical and sensitive data for businesses and provide continuous power, gas and water services.

The benefits of energy storage

While it is clear energy storage enables businesses to integrate a higher proportion of renewables into their energy mix, the benefits of storage extend far beyond that.

Over the past 10 years we’ve seen a rapid increase of households using batteries to store excess solar at off-peak times for use during peak demand at night. Aside from being green, energy storage means businesses as well as residential users can avoid rising electricity costs associated with market-driven changes.

Intelligent software can be paired with storage solutions to track power consumption and reduce costs at times of peak demand by selling excess power back to the grid. These solutions mean large commercial industries like manufacturing, mining and agriculture can participate in demand response markets without impacting operations. By responding to market price, energy storage solutions can increase financial return for businesses while also benefitting the overall grid.

Ecoult supplied a 3MW UltraBattery bank to Hydro Tasmania as part of the Island Grid solution developed by Hydro Tasmania. The batteries store energy when solar and wind is at a peak and make it available when renewable power can’t meet the load – which may be hours or just seconds later. Having the battery available helps the sophisticated micro-grid technology that was developed by Hydro Tasmania to manage the use of diesel generators more efficiently.

On a different scale, CedarVale Health and Lifestyle Retreat has implemented a kilowatt-scale smart solution to lower its dependence on diesel usage. The off-grid spa had relied on a diesel generator, which fired up frequently to backup renewables at site in Kangaroo Valley, NSW. Installation of an UltraBattery system meant diesel usage could be reduced to almost zero and the site is now powered almost exclusively by renewable energy.

John Wood is chief executive officer of Ecoult.