A new scientifically tested innovation to boost SA's renewable energy storage

A collaboration between the CSIR and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research will give South Africa's renewable energy sector, which requires battery storage, a much-needed boost.

VITO and the CSIR are focussing on energy storage technology innovation and localisation. Picture: CSIR

CAPE TOWN - A new indoor energy storage that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) tested will strengthen South Africa’s ability to support local players in the battery value chain, thereby boosting the country’s capabilities in renewable energy storage.

The collaboration falls within the ambit of an agreement between the CSIR and VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.

The newly-established indoor energy storage test-bed equips the CSIR to test the performance and reliability of lithium-ion batteries, as expressed by their storage capacity, lifecycle and depth of discharge.


An indoor energy storage testbed for lithium-ion batteries is an important step in the renewable energy journey, says CSIR project leader Renesh Thakoordeen (right). Picture: CSIR

An indoor energy storage testbed for lithium-ion batteries is an important step in the renewable energy journey, says CSIR project leader Renesh Thakoordeen (right). Picture: CSIR

This will help build capacity in the South African battery industry, as lower-capacity clients (small and medium-sized enterprises, manufacturers, and importers) will have access to indoor test-bed facilities and overall market knowledge can be improved.

VITO and the CSIR will focus on energy storage technology innovation and localisation.

“The facility will provide much-needed testing for the country. It will be used as a service for technology developers or importers who would like to characterise their technologies for market entry," explained CSIR Energy Storage Testbed Project leader Renesh Thakoordeen.

He said the facility was also a stepping stone towards addressing the intermittency challenge of renewable energy.

"Many businesses and residential homeowners are turning to solar power and batteries to secure their energy supply. But ensuring the quality of such systems is key. The test-bed will assist in creating the standards for lithium-ion batteries in South Africa,” said Thakoordeen.

CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini expressed the organisation's appreciation for the level of collaboration and scientific support it received from the Government of Flanders in Belgium and its research institutions.

“The facility brings hope for sustainable energy and a secure energy future. How we store energy is at the heart of the successful use of renewable resources such as solar and wind. A developing country such as South Africa has to think of technologies that offer long-duration storage, have low operational and maintenance requirements, and can withstand harsh climatic conditions,” said Dlamini.

The facility is equipped with a high-precision system for battery module and pack tests. It has many channels to test numerous batteries in parallel under dissimilar test cycles. It also has a new generation temperature chamber to provide data on the operating behaviour of batteries used in harsh climates – which will impact optimal performance.

The harsh temperatures in the Northern Cape, for example, can affect batteries in mine machinery and vehicles. The test-bed will provide valuable data on the batteries running these machines, enabling the mine to extend machine battery life and provide a safe operating zone.

VITO Energy Technology Project manager Carlo Mol said the energy storage test-bed was the first step towards a broader cooperation between CSIR and VITO.

“The CSIR and VITO started their intense co-operation at the end of 2020, thanks to the financial support of the Government of Flanders for the indoor energy storage test-bed. The project funding enabled us to make investments in high-tech equipment for testing batteries in South Africa and build local capacity beyond this. It also gives the CSIR and VITO the opportunity to share knowledge on sustainable energy storage solutions for the benefit of South African stakeholders.

"We are looking forward to future collaborations as the CSIR and VITO signed a memorandum of understanding in April 2022 to extend their research and innovation cooperation towards a broad range of sustainable technologies.”