With renewable energy options gaining in popularity throughout Australia, more and more homeowners are looking at solar batteries as a way to store power and avoid being affected by blackouts.
A recent audit conducted by solar industry consulting company SunWiz revealed that nearly 7,000 batteries were installed in Australian homes in 2016, after only 500 installations in 2015. According to Warwick Johnson, managing director with SunWiz, uptake is expected to triple in 2017, since the majority of these installations occurred in the latter part of the year.
The top locations for battery installations were New South Wales and Queensland, which Johnson attributes to the large amounts of sunlight, high electricity prices, and government subsidy programs available in these areas. The price of batteries has also contributed to the increase in sales, thanks to the competitive market.
According to an article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the cheapest battery option in Australia retails for approximately $1,200, but larger batteries can cost as much as $10,000. Homeowners have quite a few options to choose from, however, with around 90 different products available.
Johnson said the audit, which includes information collected from research as well as interviews and surveys with manufacturers and suppliers, aimed to provide transparency into what is “otherwise a very opaque market.”
“Survey respondents from solar retailers indicated that 70 per cent of sales enquiries for solar also enquire about batteries,” Johnson said. “Customers are interested in the ability of batteries to become grid-independent, reduce electricity bills, and make more efficient use of their solar panels.”
These batteries don’t just benefit the homeowner, Johnson added. The reliability of Australia’s energy networks has been criticized recently, with some users facing as many as five blackouts in six months in parts of South Australia. Batteries offer the potential for energy companies to access stored energy and put it back in the grid for public use, possibly allowing entire communities to avoid these outages.
“It’s both something that needs to be managed but also something that can present a great opportunity for Australia,” Johnson said. “I’d say three years is when we’d start to see that batteries are playing an important role in the network.”
Many energy networks throughout Australia are already conducting their own battery trials to gain a better understanding of how this technology could improve their infrastructure. According to Energy Networks Australia (ENA) chief executive John Bradley, feedback has mostly been positive – indicating that batteries will “absolutely” play a role in the future of energy in Australia.
“The technology is performing in a predictable manner, the real art will be how we set the right incentives to get the full value out of it,” he said. “We could see up to 10 million participants in the market at this micro scale, all receiving incentives and payments for allowing their technology to support the grid, and that would mean that you had a much more efficient grid but a much more stable grid.”
Johnson said the results of the SunWiz report show that further market education is required before batteries can become a reliable option for networks and consumers alike.
“Customer expectations of batteries differ markedly from the capabilities and value proposition of most offerings on the market, and salespeople are also caught up in the excitement,” he said. “Batteries aren’t yet a commodity – one size doesn’t fit all.”