The Northern Territory plans to spend $30m on a big battery for the Darwin-Katherine grid that is expected to reduce gas costs and increase the use of solar power to meet its target of achieving 50 per cent renewable power generation by 2030.

Chief minister Michael Gunter and renewables and energy minister Dale Wakefield said over the weekend that the battery would generate savings of about $6.4m per annum as less gas would need to be burned to provide the territory with its “spinning reserve”.

Spinning reserve is extra generating capacity available in the event that a generator goes down.

While the NT government has not yet decided on the exact size of the battery, Territory Generation had previously recommended a 35 megawatt (MW) battery similar to Alinta Energy’s successful Mt Newman battery in the Pilbara.

This planned battery would also be used to test the capacity for batteries to deliver a range of other power system services, including fast frequency response and what the government called “emulated” inertia.

However, concerns have been raised that the battery is not big enough to deal with both the grid’s spinning reserve issues and have enough capacity left over to deal with new solar farms.


Bigger is better

Reneweconomy quoted Alan Langworthy, who chaired the territory task-force into renewables, as saying that while the NT government is moving in the right direction, a bigger battery will be needed to achieve stabilisation of the grid.

The widespread adoption of rooftop solar panels means that the power system needs to be able to rapidly respond to variability in solar power generation to ensure that electricity supply is not compromised.

While this challenge is currently met by the gas-powered spinning reserve, a large battery would also be able to manage fluctuations caused by the increasing levels of household and business solar quickly and efficiently.

The move to install a big battery comes as the NT government announced a $6,000 grant for households and businesses to install a battery storage unit of at least 7 kilowatt hours.

However, the government also noted that batteries and inverters would no longer be eligible for grants under the new Home Improvement Scheme or the Business Improvement Grant.


A leg up for the small caps

The news hints at the broader adoption of battery storage in the market and is undoubtably good news for small caps.

Earlier this week, Lithium Australia (ASX:LIT) secured a patent from IP Australia for its LieNA lithium processing technology to increase the recovery of lithium from fine and contaminated spodumene.

This material would normally go to waste, giving the technology the potential to expand current hard-rock lithium resources and enhance the sustainability of spodumene production.

Neometals (ASX:NMT) has likewise reached a collaboration agreement with Critical Metals to jointly evaluate the production of high-purity vanadium products by recycling high-grade vanadium-bearing steel by-products in Sweden and Finland.

A successful evaluation will result in an equal joint venture between the two companies to process and recover high-purity vanadium products suitable for aerospace alloys and energy storage applications.

Meanwhile, Core Lithium (ASX:CXO) has secured NT government approvals for its advanced Finniss lithium project, which could inject over half a billion dollars into the NT economy.

Core wants to complete offtake arrangements and have Finniss construction-ready later in 2020, ahead of sourcing project debt and equity.

Advanced explorer AVZ Minerals (ASX:AVZ) is driving the mammoth Manono project in the DRC toward a development decision and is closing in on a $14.1m strategic investment by Yibin Tianyi, one of China’s largest lithium hydroxide producers.

Yibin Tianyi is set to become a key cog in the supply chain of Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery maker.

Talga Resources (ASX:TLG) plans to be the first and largest battery anode producer in Europe with customer and financing discussions currently underway.

Its vertically-integrated low-cost Vittangi anode project in Sweden has the potential to make big profits over its initial 22-year life, according to a May pre-feasibility study.

At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While AVZ Minerals and Talga are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.