Redflow launches ZCell battery to rival Tesla Powerwall

Source: Featured in Delimiter Thursday 31/03/2016

Australian battery specialist Redflow has launched a residential energy storage solution called ZCell – a product that will rival Tesla’s Powerwall, which launched in Australia in late January.

Like the Powerwall, the product allows users to store energy derived from solar or other sources of alternative power in the day and use it at night, or store off-peak power for high-demand periods.

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By Daniel Palmer

The system includes a battery made from easily recyclable or reusable components and can store 10 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy.

“Importantly, ZCell enables you to reduce your carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuel-generated electricity by storing energy harvested from your solar panels. ZCell is primarily made of plastic, aluminium and steel, elements that are easily recycled, while its fluid electrolyte can be reused or repurposed,” said Redflow’s Executive Chairman Simon Hackett.

At the core of ZCell is a Redflow ZBM2 flow battery housed in a custom-designed, outdoor-rated, free-standing enclosure looking rather like a tower PC computer.

ZCell’s battery is managed by an onboard computer control system, enabling on-site battery commissioning, monitoring and control using a smartphone-compatible Wi-Fi interface.

“ZCell lets you discharge 100% of its total stored energy every day, whereas other battery types can require a significant amount of their underlying storage capacity to be locked out to prevent battery damage and to extend battery life,” Hackett said.

The system is warranted to deliver its full 10 kWh of stored energy each day for up to 10 years, he added. This compares favourably with lead acid and lithium batteries, which can lose a portion of their storage capacity over the same period.

Redflow added that ZCell’s flow battery design increases safety over other battery types, since mechanical damage “does not risk explosion, dangerously high current output from short-circuit or ‘thermal runaway’”. Additionally, ZCell’s electrolyte is fire retardant, rather than a fire risk.

Further, the system can perform without the need for external cooling until an ambient outside temperature of at least 45ºC.

The firm said it expects the fully installed cost of a 10 kWh ZCell-based energy storage system will start from $17,500 – $19,500 including GST, although this may vary.

“Due to ZCell’s sustainable 10kWh energy discharge capability, the cost per installed kWh – that is, the purchase cost divided by output capacity in kWh – is highly competitive with other systems on the market, while offering superior technical features,” said Hackett.

Where more energy is required, such as in larger homes or commercial installations, larger systems using multiple ZCells can be designed. In fact, the ZBM2 core battery is already delivered in systems featuring as many as 60 batteries, he added.

Residential installations of the ZCell system are scheduled to start in mid-2016.