Rooftop solar is hugely popular in Western Australia, where more than a quarter of homes have a PV system. Within Western Australia, Meadow Springs, a suburb of the city of Mandurah, south of Perth, has the highest number of residential rooftop systems in the state. For that reason, state-owned energy retailer Synergy and grid operator Western Power decided in October to offer 52 homeowners in Meadow Springs the opportunity to participate in a novel experiment.
Instead of installing individual battery storage units in their homes, why not install one big battery and let the families share it? For the cost of $1 dollar a day, each family can store any excess electricity generated by their PV system and withdraw up to 8 kWh of it after 3 pm when utility rates are generally higher. The companies sent out a flyer in the mail to local residents inviting them to sign up for the program before the end of three months. Within two weeks, the program was fully subscribed.
The system has been named PowerBank, and it uses a 105 kWh Tesla PowerPack storage unit. It is the first time a utility scale battery has been integrated into an already established major metropolitan network in Australia and made accessible for individual customers, according to PV Magazine Australia.
Ben Wyatt, energy minister for Western Australia, says “Investing in battery storage across the grid is a more cost-efficient way of managing the growth in residential solar instead of traditional infrastructure spends like substation or transformer upgrades. It is also currently a cheaper and a far better community solution to hundreds or thousands of behind the meter individual household batteries.“ He thinks the program will revolutionize how electricity is supplied in Western Australia.
The homeowners are not locked into the program and can decide to opt out anytime during the 2 year trial. Participants will be given access to their usage patterns and daily storage data online via the Synergy website, while maintaining reliability of supply from the Western Power grid connection on overcast days, says local news source Community News.
The two companies have invested $200,000 in the program. Part of that expenditure will be offset by selling any stored electricity not used by participating homeowners. Green Mountain Power in Vermont says its system, which networks hundreds of individual Tesla PowerWall home batteries, saved it a half million dollars during one spell of hot weather last summer.
This is positively brilliant. It’s not community solar exactly. It’s not a microgrid exactly. It’s a hybrid system that maximizes the potential of rooftop solar while minimizing the cost of energy storage and it charts a path toward energy independence for us all. Instead of spending $7,000 or more for a Tesla PowerWall, residents can pay $365 a year for the same storage capacity. Who wouldn’t take that deal? For more information on the PowerBank system, check out this cool video. And maybe send it to your local utility company. This is an idea that needs to be shared.
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