Brisbane company RedFlow delivers a prototype zinc-bromine battery-based energy storage system
Brisbane company RedFlow delivers a prototype zinc-bromine battery-based energy storage system
21 October 2010

World-leading research into the application of large-scale electricity storage will begin at The University of Queensland early next year.

A deal has been signed to connect the University’s planned new 1.2 megawatt solar photovoltaic system to a prototype zinc-bromine battery-based energy storage system.

UQ and Brisbane company RedFlow Limited today announced they had reached agreement to install the prototype storage system alongside UQ’s 1.2 megawatt solar system — Australia’s largest and most powerful photovoltaic flat panel array — which is under construction at the university’s St Lucia campus in Brisbane.

Professor Paul Meredith, Renewable Energy Focal Group Chair at UQ’s Global Change Institute and leader of the 1.2 MW project, said technology for capturing solar energy had improved significantly in the past decade, but storing that power cleanly and effectively for later use remained one of the industry’s biggest challenges.

“In the early days of solar power, lead acid batteries were used, but these are environmentally damaging, have a relatively short life span and are inefficient,” Professor Meredith said.

“Zinc-bromine batteries are next-generation technology. They are making solar energy much more useable and effective.”

Professor Meredith said the research also highlighted one of the big areas of discovery that the solar array was making possible — how one megawatt-plus size alternative energy sources would interact with the power grid.

“Currently the grid has been set up to take massive, high-voltage electricity inputs from enormous coal or gas power stations,” Professor Meredith said.

“With the research we will undertake at UQ – in conjunction with our research partners RedFlow, Energex, Ingenero and others — we expect to lay the groundwork for numerous types of renewable energy sources to input power to the grid.

“We at UQ are very fortunate to have RedFlow and its world-leading technology here on our doorstep in Brisbane. We are very excited about working together on this globally significant research project.”

RedFlow chief executive Phil Hutchings said energy storage allowed clean electricity generated while the sun is shining to be fed back into the grid at evening peak times, when electricity is most valuable and demand is highest.

The prototype RedFlow 200 system, rated at 200 kW, will be linked to a 390 kW section of the UQ PV array, and the performance of those panels will be compared with an identical section with no storage.

“This will demonstrate how large-scale energy storage can be used to manage the harmonics and transient effects of periodic dips in power input, such as those that occur when clouds move across the sky,” Mr Hutchings said.

Since two UQ alumni founded RedFlow in Brisbane in 2005, the company has become known as a world leader in high-performance zinc-bromine flow batteries for grid-connected electricity storage.

In June, UQ awarded the $7.75 million contract to install its 1.2megawatt photovoltaic solar array to Brisbane firm Ingenero Pty Ltd.

Ingenero is partnering with one of the world's leading solar photovoltaic companies, Trina Solar, which will supply the system's panels.

The panels will be installed on four UQ buildings — the two multi-storey carparks, the UQ Centre and the Sir Llew Edwards Building.

ENERGEX is supplying state-of-the-art metering and monitoring equipment to provide high-quality data for analysis, specifically to support research into the impact of renewable solar energy on the grid.

In April, when Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced the State’s $1.5 million grant towards UQ's solar array, she noted the system would save 1750 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually — equivalent to taking 335 cars off the roads each year.

Media: Professor Paul Meredith, ph 0407 690 751, or Craig Froome, The University of Queensland Global Change Institute, ph +61 7 3365 3689 / 0410 559 135
Phil Hutchings, CEO, RedFlow, ph +61 7 3376 0008 / 0402 120 531
Fiona Cameron, UQ Communications, ph +61 7 3346 7086