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Energy and potential: Maryborough charges ahead as battery hub

Energy and potential: Maryborough charges ahead as battery hub

Energy storage is all about securing potential. The more energy you can retain within a battery’s walls, the greater the future benefit as usable energy. A project with an extraordinary amount of potential is charging ahead in Queensland’s Wide Bay region ...

The first sod has been turned on a $70 million battery manufacturing centre in Maryborough, part of a series of developments with the potential to provide 20 per cent of Australia’s renewable energy storage needs and employ up to 500 highly-skilled workers across regional Queensland.

Just as importantly, this facility will be driven almost entirely by a local ecosystem of knowledge, resources and workforce, positioning this historic part of regional Queensland at the centre of our state’s ambition to become Australia and the South Pacific’s energy storage gateway.

Concept image of the facility (final design is subject to change).

Energy storage

The company behind the new facility is Energy Storage Industries – Asia Pacific (ESI), a Queensland-based and 100 per cent Australian-owned renewable energy company.

ESI Director Stuart Parry says this project will deliver significant social and economic benefits to regional communities while helping to support the state’s renewable energy targets through the production of low-cost, environmentally friendly batteries for large-scale energy storage.

“We expect this Maryborough centre to be operational by 2024 and by 2026 expect to be in a position to deliver 400 megawatts of energy storage each year,” he said.

Mr Parry also outlined his company’s “plans to expand” operations, with ESI already assessing locations for a second Queensland facility, most likely in either Townsville or Gladstone.

“When fully operational in 2026, we will have up to 500 highly-skilled employees and contractors working at our facilities throughout regional Queensland.”

Keeping it local

The design of the battery allows ESI to procure up to 80 percent of the battery components in regional Queensland – and what better place to start than the mineral-rich Wide Bay Burnett region? With nearby wind farm Forest Wind in the pipeline, there will be many opportunities for a local and circular energy economy to deliver many benefits.

It is not hard to imagine this energy ecosystem being replicated around the state, boosting energy supply, supporting local jobs and driving down power prices – all vitally important benefits for many areas of Queensland.

Why iron flow batteries?

Energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind is not necessarily constant, which is why long-duration battery energy storage is crucial to the integration of renewables into Australia’s energy supply system.

Iron flow batteries have many advantages including:

  • Storage - longer storage with 10 to 14-hour storage capacity
  • Running life - longer lifecycle of 25 years
  • Abundant material - the batteries’ electrolyte is primarily from iron, one of the earth’s most plentiful elements meaning lower mining and processing costs
  • Local benefits - 100% of inputs can be sourced from Australia and are therefore not reliant on overseas supply chains
  • Safety - non-flammability, therefore posing no fire risk
  • Modularity – size of battery can be increased over time as demand for storage scales up
  • Environment - improved environmental outcomes as iron flow batteries (which are 100% recyclable) contain non-toxic electrolyte
  • Operational benefits - can operate efficiently at high temperatures (up to 50 degrees Celsius).

How do flow batteries work?

A flow battery is an electrochemical cell where two chemical solutions are separated by a membrane. Ions are exchanged across this membrane, producing chemical energy and electricity.

Flow batteries are well suited to large-scale energy storage applications as system storage capacity can be increased by increasing the liquid storage volume. They are also highly recyclable as system components can be easily broken down and separated for recycling or reuse

Queensland strength

ESI chose to base its operations in Queensland because of its proactive approach to energy transition, state-owned transmission and distribution networks and proximity to the Pacific and South East Asian markets.

The Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning’s Fraser Coast and Gympie and North Queensland regional offices liaised closely with ESI to develop their projects. That included facilitation of the purchase of land, making introductions to manufacturing and training networks, linking potential supply chain partners, and fostering a relationship with the National Battery Testing Centre (NBTC) in Brisbane.

Once fully operational, ESI’s projects will contribute $4.5 billion net present value benefit to Queensland (per EY Economics).

A Battery of projects

Along with ESI’s developments in regional Queensland, battery energy storage forms a key component of Queensland’s renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030. There were 13 large-scale battery systems proposed by government-owned energy businesses in the most recent state budget, alongside $15 million to scale up the National Battery Testing Centre in Brisbane and $5 million to finalise and release a Queensland Battery Strategy, due later this year.

This project, and others like it, signals the green and prosperous future of Queensland’s energy supply, driven by symbiotic and sustainable systems delivering economic and social benefits to our state.

Last updated: 06 Jun 2023