It appears that Australia is in the middle of a massive assault of new battery installations. Will this decade be for batteries what last decade was for rooftop solar? Highly likely. After the success of the Hornsdale Battery Reserve in South Australia (the “Tesla Big Battery”), grid managers, policymakers, businesses, and homeowners are seeking more dependable, cheap power through the use of batteries.
Greg Hannan, the head of network strategy and non-network solutions at CitiPower Powercor and United Energy of Victoria, is delivering this message: electricity distribution companies need to count batteries as a basic part of their ecosystems, as important as poles and wires. They often perform network services better than old technology like gas peaker generators. They are cheaper as well as more profitable.
This is the message he delivered at Australian Energy Week: “In terms of … what are we doing on the distributed storage side, our fundamental view is that there is actually now a critical need for storage. We’re now starting to see storage as part of the fundamental energy ecosystem … as we exhaust some of the cheaper options to maintain the voltage profile, there’ll be some pockets in the network where batteries can play a role to effectively support local voltages.
“It’s a message heard more and more often; that batteries are the Jack of all trades, the Swiss Army knives of modern energy systems, able to perform a broad array of tasks and squeeze even more value out of already cheap renewables.”
Businesses like Officeworks have vast rooftop assets that they can cover in solar panels. This is a trend that has been picking up momentum, especially in the sunny state of Queensland. Officeworks operates 167 stores nationwide and has a commitment to meaningful climate action.
Officeworks continues to roll out onsite solar power systems across its network, with a further seven systems installed in 2022. “Data from these installations demonstrates that the solar energy systems have, on average, reduced electricity consumption needed from the grid by over 33 per cent.”
Now, an Officeworks store in the aptly named “Sunshine Coast” has added batteries to its solar, reducing emissions and also the power bill. Officeworks has a target of 100 percent renewable energy use by 2025. Its first solar and battery-operated store in Warana, Queensland, is a big step in that direction.
The Warana store on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast will be the retailer’s first store that will be powered by 100 kW of solar PV and a 100 kWh lithium battery, but it won’t be the last. The project has been implemented in partnership with CleanCo, a Queensland government-owned renewable energy company.
“The 1,722 sqm store has been working towards operating off 100 per cent renewable energy for two years and has previously implemented sustainability measures including LED light fixtures, a Building Energy Management system (BEMS), thermal roof coating and double insulation in the roof.”
Officeworks’ energy and carbon manager, Patrick Heagney, said: “When fully charged, the solar and battery will have enough energy to power approximately 70 per cent of the store, or 35 to 40 residential homes each day.
Of course there are naysayers, and talkback radio is full of those wanting to stir up controversy. But it’s time to get off your coal-fired hobby horse and do what you can to help the planet, rather than criticise the efforts of those who are doing so.
Home battery capacity has doubled across Australia in the past 12 months, after a flat couple of years during Covid. Reneweconomy tells us: Just under 50,000 battery energy storage systems were installed in households around Australia over the course of 2022, a new annual record and a 55 per cent increase on the numbers in 2021, new data has shown.
With electricity rising under the influence of the global gas shortage, more homeowners are seeking energy freedom and security. Australian homes now host about 2 GW of battery storage. This is enough to power the smaller states of Tasmania or South Australia. “Australians responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Covid, the energy price crisis, and worsening climate-fuelled disasters by installing home solar systems linked to batteries,” says SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston.
“There was one battery energy storage system installed for every seven solar power systems installed last year [in 2022]. This is up from one in 12 in 2021,” he added. There are approximately 3 million homes in Australia with solar systems. Imagine if they all had batteries attached? Some areas are already aggregating the available home batteries into virtual power plants to support the grid, and to also create an income stream for the owners. Home battery deployment sits at around 2% of the available market. There is plenty of room to grow. 2023 is expected to produce a growth of at least another 10%, which will add another 650 MWh of distributed storage capacity to the Australian grid.
This may be the cheapest way to replace Australia’s aging coal fleet — incentivize the public to install batteries. Although some states have some incentives, the system is patchy. Some would argue that it would be cheaper to subsidize the installation of home batteries linked to the grid than the install grid-scale batteries or pumped hydro. At the moment in Australia, it seems like everything is happening at once.
Many early adopters will find themselves in the same position that I am in. We put in a small, expensive solar array and were compensated by a high feed-in tariff (originally 56 cents per kWh, but now reduced to 40 cents per kWh). We have paid very little for electricity for the past 12 years (saving up to AU$20,000). Now that we have an electric car to feed, we have installed a separate solar array and battery. The time will come, as prices rise and the FiT falls, when we will have to make a decision about our interaction with the grid.
With decreasing costs and a range of sizes and chemistries available, there is an accelerating rollout of batteries in homes, communities, businesses, and utilities. Australian governments are battling to keep up with the changes and to update policies and regulations.
And then, there is V2G — lots of homework to be done, methinks.
Featured image courtesy of Springers.
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