Australia’s Battery Powered Solar Revolution

Posted: July 3, 2017 in Sustainability
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Battery Powered Homes

Catalyst (2016)

This is a short made-for-TV documentary promoting Australia’s preeminence in the uptake of battery based solar systems. Because solar panels don’t produce electricity at night, homeowners with solar panels must either have large enough batteries to supply their evening energy needs or purchase power from the grid to cover these periods. In 2016, thanks to major technological advances, the price of lithium solar batteries dropped from $15,000 to $10,000.

The popularity of solar batteries in Australia seems to mainly relate to the high price of grid-based power.* However there are clearly other factors. In parts of Australia, some local councils pay residents a rebate covering half the cost of their solar battery. This is because solar batteries can be crucial in fighting a severe bush fire that causes the grid to go down.

What impressed me most about the documentary was all the innovative ways battery manufacturers use to increase the uptake of their product. For example, a home owner has a number of different options in selecting a solar battery package. For $10,000 they can purchase a battery that makes them totally independent from the grid. For considerably less, they can purchase a smaller battery that stores enough electricity to get them through peak evening hours when power company charge the highest rates.

In Perth, where one out of five private homes have solar panels, battery manufacturers are collaborating with developers to construct apartment buildings with solar batteries large enough to supply all the units. In this case, the landlord will ultimately own the battery and tenants will pay their power bill to her.

Other communities with high solar panel penetration are investing in enormous batteries that supply entire neighborhoods. All surrounding solar homes feed into the battery during the day and draw from it at night.


*Typically power companies by power during the day from solar-powered homes for 7 cents a kilowatt hour and sell it back at night for 28 cents a kilowatt hour.

 

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