Record Power Prices Prompt Australians To Look for Energy Alternatives

  • Australians are looking for energy alternatives due to high power bills and unreliable grid.
  • Rise of solar power microgrids to create local energy and lower power costs.
  • solar panel image

  • Western Australia’s Horizon Power, AusNet Services and Enova Energy are companies trialling microgrids of varying sizes.
  • Australia recognising the benefits of going off grid as more and more people use solar power.

Blackouts, rising power prices and concerns about the planet have Australians looking for energy alternatives. Currently 1 in 5 Australian homes use solar energy, putting the country at the forefront of the world’s renewable energy industry.

Since so many homes already use solar panels, a number of companies have started looking at using solar power microgrids as a way to localise energy production and lower power costs – a microgrid is small network of electricity users attached to a centralised national grid but also able to function independently. Microgrids benefit people living on the edges of the power grid and in remote areas who can’t get reliable and affordable access to power.

Western Australia’s Horizon Power has created a microgrid to provide power to the far north of WA. Kununurra in East Kimberley, for example, now uses 99% renewable energy. A city-based microgrid trial is also being carried out by AusNet Services in Mooroolbark, Melbourne. The project is powering 17 homes using a combination of solar panels, 10 kilowatt-hour storage batteries, and provides access to the main grid.

The innovative project incorporates a smart battery storage system which allows the microgrid to operate independently of the main grid and is controlled by cloud-based software. There is also an east coast microgrid by Enova Energy for Northern Rivers, NSW. Here nearly half of all the energy sourced by Enova is generated by local solar users who are rewarded for pushing power back into the grid.

Though microgrids are in their early stages in Australia, as more and more people turn to solar power, the country is swiftly recognising the benefits of going off grid. By 2024 the solar panel market is forecast to increase to over $20 billion annually and half of all Australian homes are expected to have rooftop solar panels.

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.