Advances in battery technology are set to increase the sustainability and reliability of solar power in Australia.
Solar power provides energy during daylight hours but when the sun goes down, power needs are met from the grid which gets most of its electricity from fossil fuels.
Tesla, which has built tens of thousands of battery packs for its electric car market, is now producing batteries, that can store solar power, for buildings on such a scale that will dramatically reduce the costs associated with buying batteries.
Australia has the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world and the battery storage market is expected to explode with several new battery products coming onto the market in the coming months.
Heath Walker from Tesla Australia said the Powerwall was a home battery that charges from solar panels and provides power in the evening.
“With solar, for so long people have been doing it for feed-in tariffs, but now with feed-in tariffs decreasing there is an opportunity for people to control their energy at their home through battery storage and the Powerwall, we believe, is the best way to do that,” he said.
Tesla claims it will be more affordable and easier to use than existing batteries.
Andrew Reddaway from the Alternative Technology Association said it was a big advance in the solar market.
“It sets a new price benchmark because batteries are very expensive and as competitors bring their price down to meet that benchmark then batteries will become more affordable,” he said.
Australian Climate Council chief Tim Flannery said, with Australians on track to install more than 50,000 battery storage systems a year over the next 10 years he believes the Powerwall will be a game changer.
“It is projected to have an enormous impact because all of a sudden you get to that point where you won’t need coal fired power plants anymore,” he said.
“The old argument is that power plants provide the base load and therefore we need them because they generate 24/7, but so do battery systems with solar PV.”
Tom Nockolds from the Community Power Agency has been working with remote Indigenous communities in central New South Wales.
He said the communities would benefit greatly from advances in battery technology.
“What those communities have said is important to them is not only energy affordability but also autonomy, independence and self control and so they see batteries as a really interesting technology,” he said.
John Harvey’s Melbourne home in the suburb of Glen Waverly has been off the grid for a year.
He spent $60,000 making his house self-sufficient and a key part of the equation was having reliable batteries to store solar power.
“Even on a cloudy day you will get partial [ultraviolet light] so that power is not usually an issue during the day but at night with no sun it is essential to have some sort of battery backup,” he said.
It is hoped the improvement in battery technology will reduce Australia’s dependence on carbon fuels and make energy needs more sustainable.