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Community batteries – mutual attraction

How community batteries are a win for customers and the grid

By Brenton Laws

Brenton Laws, our Business Development Manager, is part of the team that is rolling out community batteries to the network. He explains why the time is now for battery technology.

New tech is sexy

Batteries, electric vehicles, stand-alone power systems - new tech is all the rage. Except that none of it is really new.

What is new, is the viability (this excites me) of these solutions – at least in particular situations, right here in WA.

With renewables thriving and providing cheap intermittent energy, the value of using supportive and complementary technologies, like batteries, is increasing.

As large scale battery costs reduce, they are becoming even more viable, and they are now ready to solve the biggest challenge posed by renewables – at times of high renewable production and low consumer demand, batteries can store the excess and return it when renewable are less productive, or demand is higher.

Falcon PoweBank

Why the grid is attractive for community batteries

As well as giving customers a new solution, batteries can also support the grid.

The grid is important, as it gives us economies of scale for generation, and the ability to share capacity.

By the middle of the twentieth century, large central power stations carrying power to many homes and businesses was a cheaper option than individual generators. Different power demands at different times meant that power stations were able to run for longer and charge less because of this efficiency.

Over time, this cheap and readily available power made the use of electricity for more and more applications attractive, and the demand for electricity grew.

As an energy person, I love the efficiency and effectiveness of this structure. Customers like the lower cost that result from this. It is the advantage that the grid structure offers.

So now, as battery storage emerges, how can it be supported by the low-cost efficiencies of the grid?

If we copy the simple concept of why the grid was built, the answer on how to approach this is readily apparent - use the grid to create a storage version that has economies of scale and shared capacity for storage.

This leads us down the path of grid batteries.

The Grid makeover – bigger is not always better

Localised areas of the network now using energy, and also provide it. That leads to local characteristics that need to be managed.

For example, voltage fluctuations when clouds cover local networks, energy flowing the reverse direction through network equipment.

The vision for solving these issues is distributed community batteries, able to smooth out localised fluctuations of energy generation and distribution faster than one or two centralised batteries.

Conveniently batteries also support a range of grid functions in today’s energy landscape, which is more volatile with solar coming in from everywhere, than the ‘old’ central generation days.

They are deliberately automated to discharge during peak, preventing stress on the network (and generators) and have the potential to defer costly network upgrades by reducing the load.

As batteries charge up during the day, absorbing excess PV generation, they help with the minimum load challenge.

It’s not all vanity… there is an outward lens

Community batteries make sense for the grid and the customer base, but what about individuals?

We’ve developed a product for customers that gives them a cost-effective battery storage option, and creates a distributed battery system on the grid.

Customers can effectively store their excess solar in the community battery during the day and then use it at night at peak energy use times. This increases their solar self-consumption and allows them avoid the expensive alternative of dropping $8k+ on their own battery.

As a community battery is also more convenient, requires no maintenance or space in the garage, offers flexibility in storage size and the ability to move house with forfeiting the investment.

The future relationship of tech and the Grid

The advantage of the network is that we can use the economies of scale and ability for customers to share resources. New technologies, like community batteries, are creating new business models for how we use our grid.

It’s exciting times to be working in the energy sector, and we see a future where they may be thousands of the batteries throughout our suburbs, helping the network and connecting with customers.