While rooftop solar panels are now common on Australian homes and businesses, energy storage units have been less so as the equipment required has been expensive and often complex. A rapid drop in prices, coupled with the evolution of lithium-ion batteries, and now government subsidies in some States and Territories, is changing things.

Energy Live has reported on Telsa’s new commercial battery in South Australia, but programs to encourage battery storage units for consumers and businesses are becoming increasingly available.

Two States are leading the way when it comes to residential batteries: The South Australia Government has announced plans to build a 250MW “virtual power plant”, linking household rooftop solar and battery storage. The project aims to connect at least 50,000 households with 5kW of rooftop solar panels and a battery system over a four-year period.

Adelaide City Council already provides residents with support for the purchase of battery and solar storage, and the ACT Government has an innovative $25 million ‘Next Generation Energy Storage Program’ which is using industry funding to support the roll-out of around 36 megawatts of smart energy storage in up to 5,000 homes and businesses by 2020.

The ACT Government’s ‘smart’ battery rollout is also contributing to the world’s largest operational residential virtual power plant being trialled by local renewable energy start-up Reposit Power and energy distributer Evoenergy, with more than 250 Canberra households and businesses currently involved in the trial.

The ACT Government has released Stage 3 funding in 2018 for the program, and with the global battery storage market predicted to be worth $400 billion by 2030, it sees the Territory as an ideal launching pad for national and international businesses wanting to get a head start in this exciting emerging industry.

Like the South Australia plan, the ACT program combines battery storage with rooftop solar systems. Household batteries are charged with energy from the rooftop solar and consumers can use this energy when they need to, even when the sun isn’t shining.

Residents in the ACT are able to reduce the cost of their energy bills by using the battery at peak times when it’s most expensive to buy from the grid. An added bonus of some setups is that they can provide backup power during a network outage. As well as benefiting individual households, the program helps the ACT’s energy grid and saves the Territory money by reducing peak demand on the energy network.

It also helps avoid the need for costly network upgrades that are causing energy bills to potentially increase in other parts of Australia’s National Electricity Market. The ACT estimates savings between $60 million and $220 million in infrastructure investment through the government-supported battery storage roll out.

We are aware many readers will still have questions about this new form of technology and have attempted to answer some of the questions you might have.

Do weather conditions impact the battery?

Extreme heat or cold can have a negative impact on the performance and lifespan of some batteries. While battery manufacturers consider this in design, it’s up to the individual to read the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure the product selected will suit the conditions. Ask the battery provider questions about the impact of weather.

Where should it be stored?

There’s lots to consider before finalising a location and consumers should talk to an electrical installer about risks and how to address them. For example, if a battery is installed in a high traffic area, such as beside a driveway, it will need to be protected against knocks, especially from motor vehicles.

What is the average life span of a battery storage unit?

A Tesla Powerwall battery, for instance, comes with a 10-year warranty. Many factors influence how long a battery will last however, including frequency of charging and discharging, ambient temperature and humidity. Consumers should talk to the battery provider about this. They also need to check the warranty for details on how long the battery should last and under what conditions.

Finally, what happens to the battery at its end of life? Large batteries contain potentially hazardous materials that need to be disposed of properly and/or valuable materials that can be reused. When a battery in purchased, it is helpful to establish if there are additional costs to pay to dispose of the battery at the end of its life. Also ask if the supplier has a collection and recycling program. For more questions and information on how to get ready for battery storage, visit www.actsmart.act.gov.au

How long will a full charge last?

A 5kW battery unit could be charged with rooftop solar panels during the day, then use that power to run your home in the evening, night and morning.

Is it safe?

Battery storage units, like all electrical installations, need to be installed carefully to avoid the risk of fire and shock. Battery storage units must be installed by a licensed electrician who has proper training and accreditation.

More on the ACT’s Next Generation Energy Storage Grants Program

This ACT Government Program provides subsidised battery storage to Canberra homes and businesses. Eight battery storage providers have been selected to install the batteries through a competitive process. If ACT residents are interested in installing solar battery storage in their home, they can visit the Actsmart website for more tips.

Stay tuned for more on this topic throughout the year.