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Solar energy battery storage to be rolled out across ACT

Benn Masters, a director of Solarhub in Mitchell in front of a Tesla Power Wall. More Canberra homes will soon have solar battery storage thanks to a government program being rolled out. Photo: Graham Tidy

The cost of maintaining Canberra's poles and wires could be reduced in coming years as the number of homes operating off the grid is tipped to explode. 

Thousands of homes and businesses across Canberra will soon have access to stored renewable energy in the largest rollout of subsidised battery storage outside Germany, according to the ACT government.

The successful bidder in the Territory's latest renewable energy auction will be asked to provide "an additional cash injection" to establish a photovoltaic battery storage program in the ACT, climate change and environment minister Simon Corbell said.

The provision is expected to attract $25 million for batteries, supporting about 36 megawatts of energy storage, to be rolled out to more than 5000 homes and businesses across the ACT over the next four years.

"This will represent the largest deployment outside of Germany," Mr Corbell said.

"It means households can capture the maximum value of the energy they are producing and I am excited that the ACT is once again at the forefront of investment and innovation in this sector."

Battery storage will revolutionise the renewable energy sector by reducing the need for network investment, Simon Corbell says.

The rollout could increase the number of Canberrans who aren't primarily reliant on the electricity grid by up to 100 times, according to some within the industry.

It could also be the first step towards implementing a renewables grid. 

"We see energy storage as being the next step in the evolution for activating a renewables grid," said Benn Masters, the director of Canberra-based solar power installer SolarHub.

"It's early adopters at this stage. I think there's probably around 40 to 50 battery installations in and around Canberra at the moment. It's early days but I would see that being accelerated quite quickly.

Australian National University climate change scientist Professor Eelco Rohling is one of those early adopters.

He said while price prohibits many people from investing in battery storage, he estimates his energy costs will be about one-fifth they were previously.

That's not without without some slight adjustments though.

"It's a bit early for us but we have professionally been looking into these systems and you really need to learn to change your power habits and to work with what you can do with the battery storage," Mr Rohling said 

"For example, you can't run a dishwasher and a washing machine on the battery because you'll drain it very quickly so you have to be a bit clever, you have to run them in the day time when the sun is out."

An entry-level solar panel and battery system starts at about $15,000, Benn Masters said.

"With any new technology the cost is high because the manufacturers are recovering their R&D costs initially but we're already seeing prices going down quite quickly," Mr Masters said.

"We already saw this with solar panels, they're about a quarter of the price they were four years ago and I expect a similar sort of curve to happen with battery technology."

And its not just early adopters who are expected to benefit from storing their sun-generated energy.

"What [the ACT government] is trying to address is that pressure on the grid when everyone gets home from work, turns on their air conditioner, turns on their television and starts cooking dinner, there's actually quite a spike in energy use during that time," Mr Masters said.

"The grid is sized for the highest demand so if you can bring that demand point down, the cost of maintaining the grid is actually a lot lower and that's where there are benefits beyond the home owner."

More than 100 megawatts of renewable energy feed-in capacity will be auctioned off from Friday.

The auction is open to proposals from both wind and solar proponents however the minister will consider opening it up to new kinds of renewable energy generators.

Mr Corbell said the government's earlier target of 90 per cent renewable energy by 2020 was "on-track to be completed on time and with minimal flow-on cost" with this latest development.

He said the cost to householders to achieve the 90 per cent is around $5 per household per week, offset by government mandated energy efficiency programs.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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