Perth’s first utility-scale community battery


Western Australian (WA) state-owned Synergy and grid operator Western Power have taken the next step forward in the PowerBank trials with the installation of a utility-scale community battery in Ellenbrook, a suburb in Perth’s north-east. The Ellenbrook trial follows the successful 2018 in the Mandurah suburb of Meadow Springs

The PowerBank 2 trial will see approximately 65 customers to ‘virtually’ store the excess energy produced by their solar panels in a 464 kWh Tesla battery for use in afternoon and evening peak times. Each customer receives 6 kWh or 8 kWh of virtual storage costing $1.60 or $1.90 per day. 

“I’m thrilled that Ellenbrook residents will be the first people in Perth to take advantage of community battery storage, without having to outlay a significant up-front cost,” said WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston. “The PowerBank trial demonstrates the successful integration of a utility-scale battery into an established network and how Western Australia is a leader in the technology space.” 

Community-storage is an excellent way to maximise the savings of solar PV, especially as residential users are still waiting for the price of battery storage to fall, as it inevitably will. 

Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw reflected on this concern: “Ellenbrook has embraced renewable solar energy, we have one of the highest rooftop solar installation rates in the State. However, batteries to store solar power are often too expensive for many households.” 

“The distribution battery will make electricity storage so much more affordable for local families and will help deliver more reliable power for our whole community,” said Shaw. 

The Meadow Springs trial, a joint initiative between state-owned retailer Synergy and grid operator Western power and PowerBank saw a 105 kW Tesla battery installed for the virtual storage of over 50 customers who collectively saved approximately $11,000 off their power bills. The success of the trial meant it was extended into the neighbouring Peel region suburb of Falcon in November 2019 and already boasts 59 subscribers. 

Synergy CEO Jason Waters said “There is so much to learn about how to integrate battery storage technology into the sector, as we move away from the traditional centralised generation and network model, to a future that increasingly incorporates distributed energy resources, such as battery storage deployed at individual customer and community-scale levels.” 

And acting CEO of Western Power Dave Fyfe noted that “Community batteries don’t only provide immediate, cost-effective solar storage options, they also have a collective benefit of smoothing out power supply to all customers in the area and opening up the capacity for more solar to be installed in the future.” 

Community utilisation is a clear pathway through the jungle of the energy transition. In a recent op-ed, Cam Klose of Indigo Power called for the “mass community-driven deployment of renewable energy across the country.” 

“The community energy movement has shown all around the world that one of the most comprehensive ways to build resilience in rural and regional communities is by installation community-scale renewable energy generation and storage facilities,” said Klose. 

The Ellenbrook trial also proves community-scale energy storage is a comprehensive way to push the energy transition in metropolitan areas as well. 

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