Australian company launches home solar storage battery to take on electronics giant Tesla

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Source: Featured in ABC Online Wednesday 30/03/2016

Though the technology was popularised by US company Tesla Energy’s Powerwall, innovation in battery storage has often been made by Australian companies — as many remote areas of the country are dependent on off-grid technologies. Aussie company Redflow is no different, announcing their new ZCell battery — an energy storage system that presents an alternative to traditional lead acid and lithium ion batteries.

The ZCell stores 10kWh of energy for a daily cycle and is aimed at the home consumer, with the ability to be retrofitted to existing systems or potentially installed as a package — though the latter will depend on installers rather than Redflow themselves. The enclosure is outdoor-rated and designed to sit on the ground rather than being wall-mounted.

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By Sara Phillips

Brisbane company Redflow says it has developed the ZCell battery that, unlike its competitors, does not use lithium and is more recyclable than its competitors.

“The active parts are plastic, aluminium and steel, the fluid electrolyte can be removed and cleaned and put in the next battery so the whole thing is very recyclable,” executive chairman Simon Hackett said.

The battery is designed to store 10kWh of electricity — enough to keep most homes running for a day or two.

“It’s a very effective high capacity battery. It’s about the size of a bar-fridge on its side and it goes outside an external wall of your house.”

With the end of generous government rebates for power being fed back into grid, the demand for home batteries has soared.

Some 1.5 million homes have solar panels installed and, because of that, international heavyweights like LG and Enphase have launched various battery models in Australia this year.

In NSW, generous premiums paid to homeowners for exporting their solar electricity to the grid are set to expire at the end of the year.

More than 146,000 households are about to see their feed-in tariff drop from as high as 60c/kWh to just under 5c/kWh.

Call for recycling regulations as battery uptake increases

But with a growing battery uptake, is there a future problem in the making? Helen Lewis, Australian Battery Recycling Initiative chief executive, said most batteries being sold have a life span of 10 years and is calling for the Government to accelerate negotiations with the industry for a battery recycling scheme.

“We don’t have any regulations that require recycling of batteries at the moment. We’d like to see that come into force sometime over the next few years.”

Dr Lewis warned that it took almost 10 years to install a TV recycling program.

“We certainly don’t want to see batteries sitting on the kerb like we saw for TVs and computers a few years ago,” she said.

However another enterprising company in Victoria has seen a market opportunity.

PF Metals has just opened a pilot lithium-ion battery recycling plant.

The machine crunches down mobile phone and laptop batteries to their component parts and sells them to be remade into batteries.

“That lithium-ion dust can go back into manufacturing new energy systems and that’s why we’re quite excited about the process because we’re creating something that can go back into all-new products,” the firm said.

The chemistry of many large household batteries is similar to smaller batteries.

So managing director Andrew Mackenzie is aiming to scale his facility up to handle the larger batteries.

Redflow announced its new battery to the ASX this morning.