Australian-first battery trial revealed in Meadow Springs

An Australian-first trial to integrate bulk battery storage into the existing grid has set its focus on Western Australia’s top solar panel postcode - Mandurah. 

On Wednesday, State Energy Minister Ben Wyatt was in city’s central suburb of Meadow Springs to announce the two-year trial, which aims to make battery storage more accessible and manageable for Western Australians.

The announcement has come off the back of the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which revealed the city topped the list for solar panel installations in WA. 

Only Bundaberg in Queensland has a higher percentage of uptake Australia-wide, the findings also found.

Mr Wyatt revealed that 52 households would form part of the trial. 

Those households will be selected after responses received from 200 locally distributed invitations.

Trial participants will be able to virtually store excess power they generate during the day from their solar PV systems in the battery, and then draw down on that power during the peak evening period.

Those households will be allocated a maximum of eight kilowatt-hours of virtual storage at the cost of $1 per day. 

A 105 kilowatt Tesla battery, owned and operated by Western Power and Synergy, will be connected to the grid in Meadow Springs, allowing households with solar panels to maximise their existing grid connection.

Homes taking part in the trial will not be locked into the program, which will allow them continuing flexibility and choice in deciding how they meet their individual electricity needs.

The recruitment of participants for the trial will start this week, with Synergy contacting those eligible by mail.

The City of Mandurah team: Chief executive officer Mark Newman, manager of environmental services Brett Brenchley, energy efficiency officer Karin Wittwer, sustainable communities director Tony Free and mayor Rhys Williams. Photo: Caitlyn Rintoul/Fairfax Media.

The City of Mandurah team: Chief executive officer Mark Newman, manager of environmental services Brett Brenchley, energy efficiency officer Karin Wittwer, sustainable communities director Tony Free and mayor Rhys Williams. Photo: Caitlyn Rintoul/Fairfax Media.

Mr Wyatt said the area had the “highest penetration of residential solar in the nation”, which made Meadow Springs “an obvious place to start”.

“The growth of solar on roofs is just extraordinary,” he said. 

“This community battery means that those West Australians who are part of this trial won't have to put up the capital up-front for their own battery at home.

“They can participate for about a dollar a day in a community battery to marry up with supply and demand of solar here in the City of Mandurah.”

Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams welcomed the announcement. 

“We're really excited to be a beneficiary of this great project," he said. 

“We're very grateful to the state government, Western Power and Synergy for allowing us to partner with them in delivering this project. 

“The people of Mandurah have sustainability in their DNA. 

“Most of the people that live here have moved here from somewhere else and they've come here because they appreciate the environment and it's an important part of our Mandurah lifestyle. 

“That's why the highest uptake of solar in the state and the second highest in Australia happens here in our community. 

“To be trailing this technology to be again at the forefront of this type of innovation is something that we're particularly proud of.”

Synergy chief executive officer Jason Waters described batteries as “the big wave of change” for energy usage in the country. 

“It’s giving residents access to storage and enabling them to take control over how they use their power as opposed to the traditional means of simply buy it, use it or indeed just spill that spare energy back into the system,” he said. 

Western Power chief executive officer Guy Chalkley said it was impressive that in the area, four in ten households had solar.

“You look around at the roofs, you can pretty mush see it when you’re driving. 

“It’s there to capture but we’re not actually capturing it.”

“Not only does it save on a customers bill from actually utilising the solar that they can produce but longer term it could actually produce a much better, much cheaper longer-term solution rather that a large substation.

“We can see the benefit going forward.”

Follow Caitlyn Rintoul on Twitter via @caitlynrintoul.