ENGINEERING NEWS – 8 May 2015
By Natalie Greve
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) has launched an energy storage innovation facility that aims to create an interface between energy storage technology development projects, innovation partners and potential industrial customers in need of advanced energy storage solutions, to cross the so-called “innovation chasm”.
The university said the strength of the Energy Storage Innovation Lab (ESIL) lay in the development, validation and localisation of wide-range energy storage systems for the South African industry and community.
According to ESIL head Professor Bernard Bladergroen, the facility was the culmination of years of research, development and innovation at the UWC’s South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry in the field of lithium-ion (li-ion) and sodium-halide batteries, battery modules and integrated energy storage systems.
ESIL would support an existing research programme aimed at driving the local production of li-ion batteries at a competetitive cost through the use of local raw materials.
A primary output of this programme was the development of a li-ion battery cell production line, where battery modules suitable for automotive and renewable-energy system battery packs could be manufactured on a pilot scale.
The laboratory also boasted an extensive network with energy storage developers, manufacturing and system integrators from South Africa, China, India, the US, Germany and other countries.
It would further develop low-cost thermal cells for grid-scale stabilisation and energy storage.
Bladergroen added at the launch of the facility on Wednesday that, with the current strain on the electricity grid and the growing deployment of renewable energy, there was a clear need for reliable and cost-effective energy storage systems.
“It is the right time for customers, innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs in the energy storage arena to get together and work towards sustainable solutions.
“Energy storage can mitigate the negative effects of power outage, assist in improving national grid stability and enable South Africa to tap into its vast renewable-energy potential, specifically from wind and solar sources,” he commented.