Battery energy storage trial set to revolutionise electricity distribution sector

Alpine Energy has worked collaboratively with Infratec Ltd, one of New Zealand’s leading renewable energy firms, to deliver the country’s first grid connected commercial battery energy storage system (BESS) suitable for both network and consumer purposes as part of the network company’s commitment to understanding new and emerging technologies.

The significance of the innovation the project brings to the energy sector was acknowledged by Minister of Energy and Resources, Hon Simon Bridges, at the official launch of the project earlier today.

The launch will see the company embarking on a five-year trial of the technology to better understand the impact of the commercial application of battery storage technology on its own business and that of its customers.

The trial will be managed by Infratec. Infratec is recognised for its leadership in research, development and deployment of new technologies within the energy sector. The trial will involve using BESS to research the possibility of using a 1 MW (1000 kW) battery storage system for network use. The lithium ion battery energy storage system can currently store up to 142 kWh of energy and provide up to 91 kVA of peak power, with the ability to upgrade peak power to 142 kVA with the addition of a second inverter. At 142 kWh the energy storage system can supply up to 20 average sized homes for one hour during peak periods, and over two hours during off peak periods.

“We have engaged in the BESS project in order to embrace the possibilities that future technologies can bring to the delivery of our core business and the sustainability of our community,” says Sara Carter, Alpine Energy’s General Manager - Commercial and Regulatory.

With the added capability the trial is expected to develop within the business, commercial opportunities for the company are anticipated, both domestically and internationally.

“Not only will the project deliver efficiencies to Alpine Energy’s core business, it provides the company with the chance to grow its internal capability in new technologies and to prepare to support emerging technologies by utilising battery storage technology.
“With battery storage technology decreasing in price faster than originally predicted, the future uptake of the technology is likely to be significant. The trial will therefore also create an increased understanding of how customer deployed battery storage might impact on an electricity network in New Zealand.

“This includes impact on local transformers, voltage performance, power quality and interoperability. There is also an opportunity to expand the trial to include solar PV, micro-wind and EV charging,” adds Carter.

Project planning for BESS began in October last year and Alpine Energy have employed BESS as a network management tool on the Transpower Demand Response Program (DRP), an initiative designed to lower congestion and increase capacity on the national grid since the beginning of May 2016. Infratec is currently managing this initiative although Alpine Energy staff will eventually pick up that function as capability within the company develops.

Design and construction of the battery storage system was completed by Australian company Energy Made Clean Ltd (EMC), who specialise in designing and building commercial and utility scale renewable energy projects across Australasia. EMC also provided the temperature controlled container, battery rack and batteries and installed all of the equipment in Alpine Energy’s Timaru Washdyke Yard facilities. Construction took approximately two weeks. The remaining electrical equipment including electrical switching equipment, software, batteries and inverter were independently supplied.

The BESS is housed in a 20-foot fully fire contained shipping container and is re-locatable to allow for use on low voltage sites throughout the network.