The popularity of roof top solar power generation continues to grow across the country and can now be considered mainstream technology. Despite this success, an obvious drawback to using solar power on its own is that it is only available when the sun is shining. At night time households are still completely reliant on the grid - often from fossil fuel sourced power such as coal and gas, and with the cost of electricity being considerably higher per unit than the solar feed in tariff (in WA it is 4 to 1), householders can still get hit with hefty bills. In addition to maximising the on-site benefits of solar generation, battery storage can also play a role in smoothing peak demand issues on the broader grid, reducing the need for costly network upgrades.
At Josh’s House an existing 3kW solar panel system installed at the time of construction produces nearly double the electricity used over the year, making the house comfortably ‘net zero energy’. Despite this, monitoring undertaken over the past 12 months has shown that over half of the power consumed (56%) is still being sourced from the grid, making storage an attractive option.
The system works by storing excess solar power generated during the day so it can be used at night. Once the batteries are full, surplus power generated from the solar panels is diverted to the grid. If the household demand exceeds solar generation and battery storage, then power will be drawn from the grid. If there is a black out, then the batteries will provide backup power.
The system uses lithium iron phosphate battery technology – similar to what is used in mobile phones and lap top computers. They are safe, maintenance free, long lasting (10-15 years) and recyclable.
According to JBA Director and Curtin University researcher Josh Byrne, this is one of the first grid connected solar storage systems on the Perth electricity network, and the first of its kind nationally where its ‘real-life’ performance can be monitored by industry and the general public.
‘Whilst there has been a lot of buzz around solar battery storage in recent months, the reality is it is still an emerging technology in terms of product availability and regulatory approvals’, said Mr Byrne. ‘Like everything else at Josh’s House, we see this part of the project as an important opportunity to showcase new ideas about low carbon living. Most importantly we want to be able to share the data on how these systems perform in a real-life setting, to demystify the technology and help inform the conversation on the role battery storage might play in the transition to a renewable energy future.’
The installation drew the attention of the WA Treasurer and Minister for Energy Mike Nahan, who recently visited Josh’s House for a tour and to inspect the new battery unit. The Minster’s response was captured in an exclusive interview on the latest episode
of the Josh’s House video series available at www.joshshouse.com.au
plus download a copy of the factsheet
The Josh’s House battery trial was initiated by researcher Jemma Green, working with Professor Peter Newman from the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute
. Jemma and Peter are working on other battery trials as well - with the intention of the research being to understand how the technology works, what are the challenges to deployment, what are the implications for mass uptake of this technology in our energy system and how can it be mainstreamed. They expect the battery technology will work well for households that want to complement their existing solar systems and also those who want to install solar panels and batteries at the same time. They also anticipate a substantial uptake of the batteries over the next five years as costs come down and expect mainstream adoption of this technology within the next ten years.
Interviews with Josh Byrne are available by contacting: