Community batteries have gained media prominence in the last few months, partly due to Labor’s pledge to spend $200m and install 400 community batteries across Australia, with five of these to be in Perth. While community batteries are not a brand new concept (Synergy ran a trial in Alkimos from 2016 to 2021), up until now, they haven’t been implemented in any meaningful way.
So, what are community batteries and are they set to impact Australia’s push towards greater use of renewable energy?
What is a community battery?
Community batteries are similar to household solar batteries, designed to work the same way – storing excess solar energy that can be utilised when a household’s solar panels aren’t creating enough electricity for the home.
Their point of difference is that community battery users pool their resources. How the battery will distribute the electricity is still under continuous refinement. Some trials are cited as designating a portion of space for each household, but we’ll have to wait for community batteries to reach further implementation to see what the standard distribution method is.
In the Alkimos trial, residents received ‘unlimited’ storage capabilities, but the report does not explain the distribution process.
How do community batteries work?
Community batteries work in the same way a household solar battery does. For an in-depth look at how solar batteries operate, read our article:How Do Solar Batteries Work?. In short, though, at peak periods of solar energy generation (when the sun is at its warmest and brightest), your excess electricity is fed to your solar battery. Your battery stores this power until you need it (evenings, high electricity use, cloud cover, or even to charge your electric car).
A community battery is this same process, but the excess solar power is pushed to the community battery by multiple households and redistributed when needed.
What are the costs of having a community battery?
This is a tricky question to answer with a specific number due to variables such as battery size, customer allotted storage and the number of participants, all being factors in the final cost.
It’s also too early to know what the user fees will be. There will almost certainly be an administration fee to cover installation and maintenance costs. However, because we’re still in the developmental stage, most of the trials are free or heavily-reduced in costs as the project’s funding subsidises them.
Is a household battery a better option than a community battery?
Community batteries provide a storage option for individuals who cannot afford the upfront costs of their solar battery but leave users with less autonomy, self-sufficiency and personalised performance than a household battery. When choosing and installing a residential battery, a high-quality provider such as Plico will assess your electricity use and suggest how much storage is optimal. This ensures you’re not overpaying for a battery too big or purchasing a battery whose storage is too small.
For more information on battery sizing, see What Size Solar Battery Do I Need for My House?
Battery storage is the present and future of solar, allowing users to save on electricity bills and become more self-reliant. A community battery is better than no battery, allowing you to power your home when your solar panels aren’t generating enough solar energy.
The upfront cost of a household battery can be a tough hurdle to overcome for many, which is why Plico created a solar power model where members can have a solar + battery system installed and maintained for no big upfront costs. We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to use renewable power.
Community batteries versus virtual power plants.
Part of the selling point of solar batteries is that they take pressure off the electricity grid, which is continually cited as struggling to withstand the demand placed upon it. Community solar batteries are often viewed as a way of reducing this demand, but in fact, they need the grid to function. While they reduce reliance on transmission networks, they are heavily reliant on grid distribution networks (in order to circulate their collected energy). So they aren’t an effective way of reducing the strain on the electricity grid.
Virtual power plants (VPP) have been conceived to help stabilise the grid, creating a healthier renewable energy network. For a more in-depth explanation of what virtual power plants are and how they work, read our article: What is a Virtual Power Plant?.
In essence, a VPP is a network of solar systems and batteries connected to enable the sharing and distribution of energy. It’s a balanced system where households producing more in a certain period help those with less and the other way around. The bonus of being part of a VPP is that you could be paid for the electricity stored in your battery. Have a read of our article for more information.
Like community batteries in Australia, VPPs are still in their infancy. However, in the near future, Plico will be launching Australia’s first privately funded VPP. Watch this space!
Solar batteries are the future.
The recent IPCC report made it clear that Australia needs to keep pushing forward in its renewable energy infrastructure and uptake. We’re on the right path, but in the next ten years, we need to make a significant push to achieve the imperative climate results.
Even though it’s shared and offers less autonomy, a community battery is a positive switch to make. After all, you’re utilising renewable energy. However, a household battery will grant you greater energy self-reliance. With a company like Plico, you’ll have an app that allows you to track your solar energy generation and use.
As touched on above, community batteries provide an excellent opportunity for those who cannot afford the significant upfront costs of a solar battery. However, here at Plico, we’ve dispelled these fears with our industry-disrupting solar model of no big upfront costs, one low weekly membership fee, and ten years of ongoing maintenance and support.
Interested if a Plico solar + battery system might be right for you? Have a chat with one of our switched-on team members to get the information you need. You can also estimate your savings with our Savings Calculator.