Sunday , May 16 2021

Community batteries: what are they and how could they help Australian energy consumers? | Solar energy

In what could be the most attention-grabbing world of batteries since Elon Musk built the giant battery in South Australia, Labor has announced that if they win the next election, they will reimburse cash for installation. lar hundreds of “community batteries” across the country.

But what is a “community battery” and how do they work?

What is the deal?

The type of batteries used to support the mains have different shapes and sizes. Some are used to support electricity generation, such as Elon Musk’s large battery in Hornsdale, South Australia, which is used as a frequency support.

There are medium-sized batteries that are used in rural areas to isolate the networks and provide a safety power supply in case it goes out.

Then there are the small community batteries that can be scattered around the cities and shared between homes in a particular neighborhood or street. It is this type that is the focus of the Labor proposal. The basic idea of ​​these community batteries is to allow households that generate their own solar energy to pool excess electricity in a shared storage for later use.

Why do you need it?

In Australia, one in six households has solar energy, but only one in 60 has batteries. For individual homes, a community battery is a good way to reduce costs by transferring the cost and risks of installation, maintenance, and replacement to a private company or city council to take care of them.

For people who run the mains, these batteries are extremely useful. From a network perspective, instead of removing existing cables and installing a larger one to deal with issues related to peak demand, it is cheaper and more effective to put a battery. This also helps to deal with the voltage and capacity problems created by the concentrations of solar energy on the roof.

How it works?

In principle, these batteries work like Dropbox, except for electricity, although as the idea is being developed in various pilot programs, the precise specificities tend to vary.

Sizes range from 100 kW to 1 MW and can be the size of a refrigerator or shipping container. Each home is offered a certain amount of storage so that as energy is generated during the day, some of the excess energy is stored. In times of peak demand, this power can be harnessed in electric homes in the evening or supported by the grid.

There have been proposals to use batteries in electric vehicles in a similar way, but the advantage of a community battery is that both users and those using the mains know exactly where it will be at any given time.

Has it been done anywhere in Australia?

Several trials are currently being conducted across the country. Among the highlights is one from Western Power and Synergy in Western Australia, which began its third trial late last year. In East New South Wales, Ausgrid has launched its own Beacon Hill pilot program among 600 homes in the North Sydney beaches area. This is expected to be the “first of many.”

What will it cost to use?

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has recently commissioned some researchers from the National University of Australia’s battery integration and storage program to investigate the financial prospects of community battery projects.

Dr. Lachlan Blackhall, who leads the team, says it is not possible to estimate costs with certainty, as the technology is still in development, along with business models. It largely depends on who uses the battery, whether it is a for-profit company, what model they use, and what the battery is used for.

“The key thing is that community batteries deployed on a large scale would mean cost savings for consumers,” Dr. Blackhall said.

What is Labor talking about?

Promising cash. If he wins the election, Labor says it will spend more than $ 200 million installing 400 community batteries nationwide to serve 100,000 households. Workers say this will help encourage households to invest in solar panels.

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