Forget Tesla’s big battery: it’s the smaller ones you want
Last year, the world gasped as Tesla’s Elon Musk won a bet to build the world’s biggest battery system in South Australia, within 100 days. Elsewhere, though, facilities managers are finding smaller batteries are also a good bet for energy management.
By Jason Deign
Large estate owners and operators have traditionally relied on diesel generators to provide backup power in case of emergencies, for example when a blackout hits the grid.
These diesel generators are noisy, polluting, and costly to maintain, but until recently, there weren’t many alternatives. That is changing, though, as attendees at the Total Facilities expo will discover this year in Melbourne on April 18 and 19.
Today, thanks to the efforts of Tesla and a host of other energy storage companies, it is easy and cost-effective to get backup power from clean, silent batteries, instead of having to rely on diesel.
And if you currently have a time-of-use tariff with your electricity provider, the switch could help your building make big cost savings simply by storing cheap off-peak power and then using it to reduce your draw on the grid when prices go up.
Working in this way, battery systems have already racked up important benefits for facility managers in countries such as the United States.
In New York, for example—the owners of Barclay Tower, a 58-storey luxury apartment building—were able to save USD$50,000 a year by putting a battery system in the basement. The savings equated to a four-year payback.
In Australia, the savings you could make would depend on the time-of-use tariff you have. And if your building is equipped with solar panels, the savings could be even greater because you can store any excess production for use later on.
For facilities managers looking to minimise grid consumption—for example as part of efforts to cut a building’s carbon footprint—the potential to increase renewable energy consumption is immense, according to the experience of residential users.
Off-grid household owner Adrian Shand of Glenlyon, Victoria, for instance, was able to almost completely eliminate generator use with solar panels and an Australian-made Redflow battery.
Cost of batteries
During the autumn and winter, months, he says, his generator “would probably have been [on] maybe once a fortnight for about four hours.”
The other factor in the equation is the cost of batteries, which is falling all the time.
SA Power Networks, the South Australian electricity distributor, calculates the cost of battery storage could fall to within AUD$0.10 per kilowatt-hour in the next five to 10 years.
That is “by no means a long time period,” says Brett Simon, an energy storage analyst with the US firm GTM Research.
And facilities managers have plenty of battery brands to choose from. In the last few years, big-name battery makers such as LG Chem, Leclanché, and, of course, Tesla have flocked to Australia.
There are also several homegrown names serving the market, including Redflow, Ampetus Energy, and ELMOFO.
The price and performance of batteries naturally varies from one model to another, but importantly for facilities managers ,most have very low maintenance needs compared to diesel generators or even solar panels.
Best of all, depending on use, battery systems will typically last between five and 10 years before they need to be swapped out.
Commercial and industrial-scale systems often come with advanced software that can help to greatly increase the lifespan and savings you get from the batteries. Even so, it makes sense to seek expert advice before you plump for a battery system.
At the Total Facilities 2018 there will be plenty of opportunities to learn more. Stop by exhibitors such as Beacon Solar (stand C22) or Energy Action (stand B29), for example, to find out how your building could benefit from batteries. Register online here for free entry.
Find out more about enery efficient innovation in the 2018 Speaker Series – see full program here.
About the Author: Jason Deign
Jason Deign is a freelance journalist that specialises in business topics, advertising, banking, energy, management, renewable energy and more.