Energy innovations boosting resilience

Energy

During the 2020 bush fires, the renewable energy system REDEI installed stood out as the only local system which maintained uninterrupted power supply and continuous performance reporting.

Due to the uncertainty around energy sources for manufacturers, REDEI Enterprises, a Dandenong-based manufacturer, are making sustainable products for their customers, including their own lithium iron phosphate batteries. 

For manufacturers, interruptions to power supply can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For large manufacturers, even more. Extreme weather events and their resulting disruptions are impacting the bottom lines of companies Australia-wide.

REDEI Enterprises, located in Dandenong South, Victoria, are Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited designers and installers who regularly provide their customers with bespoke, renewables-based systems to mitigate the financial challenges posed by energy uncertainty for manufacturers. This includes manufacturing their own lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries to support their energy storage systems under the Australian Made banner.

“Just over two years ago, we threw out everything we knew about batteries and started over; we wanted to make the best batteries in the world,” said REDEI managing director Max Coulthard. 

“Although some of our engineers have been manufacturing LFP batteries for over 10 years, our contemporary models are lightyears ahead of earlier iterations.”

Energy

Cost, safety and performance advantages are driving manufacturers towards LFP batteries for both electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage applications. Many would be surprised to learn that a battery could be made fully flexible and modular, with expandable sides to make whatever voltage or amp hours required. As solar generated power is increasingly adopted by the manufacturing sector, so too is the use of battery storage systems for reliable power distribution.

Manufacturers are used to the vast amounts of electricity required to not only power heavy equipment, but also adequately light and climate control often large operating premises. Manufacturing, particularly processes requiring heat treatments, represent a significant budgetary and ecological burden, leading to manufacturers more likely to consider turning to renewables – namely solar due to the availability of funding incentives – over incumbent energy resources like coal-generated electricity.

“Solar farms are beginning to reduce reliance on coal, they’re quick to establish and get going; the main issue is how you integrate it into the grid,” said Coulthard.

“We’re also observing diesel generators starting to be replaced with battery storage systems. Western Australia have introduced new legislation banning diesel generators after 2025, which will likely be replaced with battery storage systems.”

Additionally, reliance on the energy grid has left many businesses at the mercy of brownouts and blackouts during periods of extreme temperature and weather conditions causing huge demands to the grid. Costly or unreliable energy supply during extreme weather events can easily reduce the capacity of businesses to operate. 

During the 2020 bushfires, essential supply and monitoring of regional sewage and water supply systems were subject to numerous blackouts and brownouts. However, the renewable energy system REDEI installed stood out as the only local system which maintained uninterrupted power supply and continuous performance reporting. 

“We never lost communication with that system, but all others did at some point during the fire period,” said Coulthard. “Resilience in the key mantra of government and industry, and we love solving problems as a complete solutions provider.”

Energy

Similarly, a dairy farmer in Leongatha milking around 1,000 cows a day sought increased system reliability to help protect against wastage in the event of power disruption. Indeed, the Victorian state government has identified dairy farmers as a key industry which have been provided with grants to help prevent power interruption and loss of product. Opting for a hybrid system with a combination of grid resources, renewables, and a back-up generator, they too avoided severe impact in cases where their neighbours weren’t so lucky.

“During five days of power outage, the renewable supply and storage system actually performed better than when tied to the grid,” said Coulthard. “Although they had the peace of mind of a back-up generator when they needed it, the REDEI patented renewables system was way ahead on performance and overcame grid supply fluctuations, often found in SWER (Single Wire Earth Return)  situations.”

“While their neighbours scrambled to get their diesel generators up and running and switching supply over, they were able to continue operations as normal and prevent product wastage.”

Now, REDEI Enterprises are eyeing off providing energy and storage solutions for customers’ needs on a global scale, where businesses with unreliable or limited power such as in cases where SWER power supplies exist.  Their customers can now decide on the degree to which they wish to rely on the grid, monitor minute-by-minute power fluctuations and choose a range of renewables that may include grid as back-up. However, Coulthard recognises that change is difficult when businesses often see energy supply as a necessary burden, rather than an opportunity to increase performance, build resilience and significantly reduce their energy costs to gain a competitive advantage.

“The fundamental issue is, businesses have the capacity to control their power now,” said Coulthard. “I encourage businesses to consider the whole-life cost of a renewables-based system as opposed to just the up-front costs.”

Renewable energy generation and battery storage systems are putting manufacturers back in charge of how they use power to grow their business. Renewable based systems are becoming more efficient. This combined with flexible finance options such as rent, lease, or buy your renewable energy system, means tenants not just owner-occupier manufacturers, now see attractive whole of life returns achievable when incorporating renewables into their power strategy. 

Beverly Witherby is the communications manager of SEMMA. For all membership enquiries, she can be reached at beverly@semma.com.au.

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