UNSW powers up on renewables with new battery

Posted 27 September 2018

UNSW Sydney has teamed up with TransGrid to install the first ever industrial-scale Tesla Powerpack battery on an Australian university campus as part of a ten-year energy research trial.

UNSW Executive Director Estate Management Jeff Peers, and TransGrid CEO Paul Italiano, unveiled the installation at the University’s Kensington campus on Friday.

The battery can store up to 500 kilowatt hours of electricity and is connected to the Old Main Building’s electricity system and powered by a 112 kilowatt rooftop solar system. UNSW will use the installation to study how to improve the utilisation of batteries for the University’s electricity grid.

“This partnership with TransGrid and Tesla gives UNSW a great opportunity for real-time study of how increasing levels of renewable energy generation in the electricity supply network can be managed by using distributed storage solutions,” Mr Peers said. 

“Its operation will also provide valuable data for students and academics to identify opportunities for improvements on battery technology in the near future.”

The battery was installed by TransGrid as the second part of a trial of medium-scale electricity demand management. The Powerpack and solar installation is used to offset energy use by the Old Main building and will allow UNSW to reduce demand on the distribution grid during peak times cutting power costs.

The process of reducing usage during heavy load times is known as demand management and the batteries are managed remotely and in real time, by TransGrid and UNSW.

UNSW academics will research novel ways to dispatch the battery using electricity load and weather forecasting tools, creating new algorithms to perform control functions for smart grid applications. Researchers will also use battery data to develop validated models that can be used to study the best ways of implementing battery applications for value stacking on the electricity grid.

“UNSW is proud to be a leader in sustainability related research and teaching, and we see this trial as a huge part of that leadership. The University is also incorporating environmental sustainability into the university's operations preparing for a low-carbon, clean-energy future,” said Mr Peers.

The trial will allow TransGrid to better understand the impact on the grid as more energy storage solutions are installed across the Sydney metropolitan area, and help to save about 600 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.

Italiano, TransGrid’s CEO, said large-scale batteries will play a significant role in the future of electricity network services.

"Energy consumers have been very clear about wanting to see more innovative services that reduce costs. This trial with UNSW helps underpin the University’s efforts at achieving energy self-sufficiency, and also delivers benefits for the wider community through research knowledge gained and decreased peak demand on the electricity network."

If deployed at scale, battery storage would provide the option of relieving stress on the transmission system during peak demand periods. The process is aimed at reducing or deferring the need for new investment on TransGrid's electricity network, ultimately reducing the cost of bills.

The following article has been published in The Newsroom, UNSW.