Fast-Tracking Neighbourhood Batteries In Melbourne

Neighbourhood batteries - Melbourne

The Cities of Yarra, Melbourne and Port Phillip are collaborating to understand ways installation of neighbourhood batteries can be fast-tracked in inner metropolitan Melbourne so more residents can access the benefits of solar energy.

Home batteries are becoming increasingly popular, but not everyone can afford (or wants) one.

A neighbourhood or community battery is a type of energy storage solution designed to soak up surplus energy exported by multiple local solar power systems, storing it for use in the evenings and other times when demand requires it.

There are various business models under which a community battery can run. For example, in one model solar owners “subscribe” to a battery. They are charged a monthly fee and allotted a certain amount of “virtual” capacity for their personal use; but forego any feed-in tariff.

In another model, stored surplus solar energy isn’t associated with any solar owner, so feed-in tariffs aren’t affected. This energy can be sold to an electricity retailer during peak periods when the wholesale cost of energy is high. This enables the battery to generate income and support its operations.

Generally considered to range from 100 kilowatts to 5 megawatts capacity, a neighbourhood battery can help address the issue of too much solar power goodness going into the local grid at certain times of the day, which can affect local network stability and increase voltage – a problem for solar and non-solar owners alike.

This scenario can lead to severe export limits placed on solar owners, and in extreme situations – zero export limits. A neighbourhood battery can free up solar hosting capacity.

Yarra Yearns For More

Last year, what was claimed to be the first inner-urban community battery in Australia went into operation in Fitzroy North, in the City of Yarra LGA – a 110kW/284kWh Pixii Powershaper installation. The City of Yarra is keen to roll out a bunch of other batteries.

“We want to tackle the challenge that many of our residents face when it comes to being able to access renewable energy,” Council states. “Facilitating the creation of more neighbourhood batteries in Yarra is one way in which we will be able to assist our community to increase the amount of renewable energy in their area, and use less fossil fuels.”

But before this happens, the City wants feedback from local residents to help determine feasibility – and where the batteries could go. A survey has been launched, which is open until early April.

“We know that access to renewable and sustainable energy using community batteries excites many residents and businesses in the Yarra community,” said Yarra City Council Mayor Cr. Claudia Nguyen. “I look forward to hearing feedback from our community, which will help to shape how and where we deliver more of these initiatives in Yarra.”

Champions Sought

The Cities of Melbourne, Yarra and Port Phillip are also inviting locals to become “Neighbourhood Battery Community Champions”. 30 community representatives in total from the three local government areas will learn about neighbourhood batteries, and support wider related engagement within their communities

More information can be found here.

One Size/Model Does Not Fit All

A Victorian study released last year delved into neighbourhood batteries, finding these projects are “highly contextual” – not easily scalable and a model used in one neighbourhood is not necessarily transferable to another.

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.

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