Energy Storage Safety A Major Concern For Australians

Battery system safety concerns in Australia

A report published today states Australia has the potential to lead the world in large-scale and home energy storage systems if public uncertainty can be addressed.

While the idea of installing a battery system is very appealing to many Australians with solar panels, it seems there’s some reluctance to do so for perceived safety reasons.

The Role Of Energy Storage In Australia’s Future Energy Mix (PDF) incorporates the findings of a national survey of more than 1,000 energy consumers.

A major concern that arose was the safety of energy storage; not just in terms of use but also potential environmental impacts if batteries were not responsibly recycled.

Factors Influencing A Battery Purchase

The factors influencing the purchase of an energy storage solution, in order of importance:

  1. It reduces your electricity cost.
  2. Its purchase cost.
  3. Its safety features.
  4. The better control it gives you over your electricity.
  5. The availability of a subsidy.
  6. It reduces your independence on the grid.
  7. Its end of life recyclability.
  8. Its benefits to the environment; e.g. reducing greenhouse gas emissions 1.
  9. Disturbances it may cause, such as noise.
  10. Aesthetic issues.
  11. “You like what it says about you”.

A majority of respondents surveyed also said they did not have enough knowledge to make an informed decision about whether to purchase a home battery system.

  • 4% said they were extremely familiar with battery storage
  • 8% were moderately familiar
  • 18% were somewhat familiar
  • 29% were slightly familiar
  • 41% were not at all familiar

In the report, the Australian Council Of Learned Academics (ACOLA) also notes development of safety standards is required given anticipated rapid uptake of batteries. This is something that’s already in the works.

“This report clearly shows the two sides of the coin – that energy storage is an enormous opportunity for Australia but there is work to be done to build consumer confidence,” said the chair of ACOLA’s expert working group, Dr Bruce Godfrey. “The best way to change attitudes is to increase understanding about energy storage.”

The report also explains how energy storage solutions can improve Australia’s energy system – and how little is actually needed over the short to medium term in Australia, even at relatively high levels of wind and solar integration. This is something that RenewEconomy’s Giles Parkinson goes into more detail about in his coverage of the report.

The Role Of Energy Storage In Australia’s Future Energy Mix was co-funded by ACOLA and the Office of the Chief Scientist.

Footnotes

  1. SQ blogger Ronald has published an interesting article on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and battery use
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. I am a little puzzled by the assertion that there is a concern about safety of battery systems. I wonder where they get that data from.
    The main concern I have at the moment is cost – or more simply put that it is difficult to cost-justify a battery system for domestic use, as the warranted cost per kWh is still much higher than the cost of drawing power from the grid.

  2. The report appears to have been written by people in ivory towers, aloof from the real world.

    I would readily get storage batteries to a capacity of two days electricity usage [1], and expand our rooftop photovoltaic systems to provide more generating capacity, to charge the batteries, if

    1. adequate interest-free finance would be available to cover the cost, and
    2. the use of storage batteries (and, an increase in the generating capacity of rooftop photovoltaic systems, from 5kW to 10kW) in single phase WA SWIS grid electricity connected households, would not be prohibited.

    From what I have read, having battery storage inside a house. is safer that having an electric refrigerator in a house (I have read of house fires started by electrical refrigerators, but I have not read of house fires or explosions caused by battery storage that is commercially manufactured to be used in conjunction with rooftop photovoltaic systems).

    [1] At
    http://reneweconomy.com.au/networks-push-to-take-regional-consumers-communities-off-grid-27204/ is


    Western Power says it could save $388 million over the next 10 years if it could provide about 2,700 customers with solar, battery storage and back-up diesel generators rather than having to replacing ageing network assets. That is around $140,000 per customer.

    It has already done trials with some rural customers in the Ravensthorpe, Lake King, Jerramungup, Lake Grace and Kondinin localities in the south of the state and it says the benefits have been outstanding.

    Solar PV arrays were deliberately oversized to give customers greater comfort – and lithium batteries were sized to supply customers for two days if the sun wasn’t shining.

    which appears (to me) to be a good guide for storage battery capacity.

    • To me, phrases such as ‘supply power for X days if the sun isn’t shining’ kind of imply to a non-technical consumer that if their total consumption is (say) 13 kwh a day, they ‘therefore’ need 26 kwh of ‘storage’ to provide 2 days of back-up. That doesn’t seem to take into account any irradiation contribution. (ie, on a cloudy day your panels can still be generating quite reasonable amounts of power), which is maybe a side issue though

      Like a lot of things in life, you can often solve 80% or more of a ‘problem’ very cheaply but above that the law of diminishing marginal utility kicks in very quickly, and the cost of achieving some version of ‘perceived perfection’ can rise higher than the altitude reached by a hot-air balloon metaphorically speaking.

      Depending on where you live, the probability of having days when no solar power at all is produced can be extremely low esp in QLD and WA Lets say you have 14 days a year of zero production – that’s a mere 4% of a year. But, its not only unlikely they’d be consecutive days, its also highly unlikely it would happen in the first place.

      My own thinking at present is to initially maybe install some minimal storage – between say 2 and 4 kwh. I’ll get the most out of the battery because it will almost certainly have more than one discharge cycle per day.

      Sure – it won’t make me totally energy independent, but its yet another not so small step towards that. I can live with less than perfect.

  3. And its probably about $15 K or so cheaper too

  4. Des Scahill – you over-simplify the issue.

    Here in the south-eastern suburbs of Perth, we have many different considerations – including but not limited to, the number of days when visibility and air quality are like in a chinese city – when we can’t see the sky, because the state government arsonists are lighting bushfires all over the place (“We love poisoning the plebs and destroying the environment”), the electricity supply outages, where the deliberate ones can last for several hours, and the not so deliberate (?) ones last for anything from a few seconds (like when it does actually rain here, and the rain washes the electrons away), to a few hours (like when the government-encouraged street racers take out a power pole, or otherwise, poles and/or lines fall down).

    It is not just a matter of when sunlight is absent. It is also a matter of when we are banned by the government, from using sunlight.

    I believe that it stable, safe, reliable, grid electricity supply is not feasible in the Perth metropolitan area, or, elsewhere in WA.

    So, battery storage of about two days of consumption, set up as a UPS and electricity conditioning system, seems reasonable for most purposes.

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