Running low on energy? Community batteries on trial in Melbourne

Technician working on utility pole

An $11 million trial in Eastern Melbourne will see batteries installed on community power poles in an effort to boost grid reliability and provide homes with rooftop solar access to a network of energy storage systems.

Led by electricity distributor United Energy, the trial will see a roll-out of 40 custom-built batteries installed around the network. Each battery will provide at least two hours of storage (60kWh) with a combined power output of 1.2MW and 2.7MWH storage capacity.

The batteries will act as a ‘community battery’ system, storing excess power generated through rooftop solar that can be drawn upon during periods of high demand or overnight when new solar isn’t produced. Instead of each household relying on an individual battery storage system within their home, as is the common process for homes with solar panels, the community battery system will instead be able to power a number of properties as needed.

The batteries will be installed on electricity poles throughout Eastern Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula, with each battery having the capacity to serve around 75 homes. Mounting the batteries on utility poles allows for easy relocation, allowing United Energy to target areas of the grid facing heavy congestion and constraints.

The 40 batteries will be manufactured in Victoria, built to look similar to the transformers that are already a standard feature on suburban grids. Energy retailer Simply Energy has agreed to lease the batteries and integrate them into its virtual power plant program, which will see the batteries used in a number of grid support services.

This expanded trial follows a successful pilot program undertaken by United Energy, which saw two batteries installed in Melbourne’s Bayside area. Should this trial prove similarly successful, further batteries could be deployed around other areas of the grid.

The rise of rooftop solar

The community batteries are one of a number of projects to support the increased installation of rooftop solar around the country. Rooftop solar recently became the second largest energy generator by capacity in Australia, with more than 2 million homes embracing the technology.

There has previously been some concern about the reliability of solar both in the household and across the grid, but with the Australian Energy Market Operator aiming to be able to support 100% renewable energy on the grid by 2025, it’s likely all forms of green power will only continue to grow.

Despite lagging behind most of the developed world in terms of emissions and share of renewable energy, Australia has a number of large-scale renewable projects in development to increase the share and capacity of green power across the country.

Storage projects such as the community battery trial allow for a greater level of reliability if issues arise due to congestion or generation issues.

Interested in solar panels? Check out our guide on installing solar at your home to save money on your energy bill, or read up on green power at our renewable energy FAQs.

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