Community batteries are flexible and scalable energy solutions that benefit both the local communities they are built in and the wider energy system. Ausgrid is collaborating with the Federal Government to deliver a major community battery rollout, which will see as many as 400 batteries powering neighbourhoods across Australia.
The Community Batteries for Household Solar Program will support power quality and voltage in local areas, and is expected to enable up to 100,000 households to install more solar and feed their excess energy back into the grid, while supporting home electrification and electric vehicle charging.
The program will be funded with $200 million dollars delivered through the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The batteries will also provide system-wide benefits, supporting more intermittent renewable energy generation by bridging the gap between when that energy is generated and when it is needed.
On 8 September, the Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, joined with Ausgrid CEO, Marc England, and Member for Reid, Sally Sitou, for the official launch of the first of these batteries at Cabarita in Sydney. The 412kWh community battery means that excess solar generated by Cabarita homes can be stored locally during the day – reducing the need to buy more expensive power from the grid when the sun isn’t shining.
Cabarita is the first of six planned community batteries to be rolled out across Sydney and the Central Coast as the first phase of the program, with the remaining five to be installed in Bondi, Cammeray, Narara, North Epping and Warriewood over the coming months.
To support its community battery roll out under the Community Batteries for Household Solar Program, Ausgrid will also be co-installing community-based renewable energy projects to further increase access to the renewable energy transition. This starts with a 42kW solar array on the Cabarita Swimming Centre, which is more than six times the size of an average household solar system.
Mr Bowen said that the new Cabarita battery would help residents store solar energy locally and reduce emissions. “I’m delighted to launch the Federal Government’s first Community Battery – which will help households access cleaner, cheaper energy and increase grid resilience,” Mr Bowen said.
“These community batteries allow communities to see, in a very real sense, that the solar panels on their roofs aren’t just overloading our grid with power during the day, but that it is being stored for the night when we need to draw on that power.” Ms Sitou welcomed the announcement, and said that she was thrilled to see the Cabarita community battery up and running.
“The community battery is one example of how we can better harness all the good work that the community is doing around putting solar panels on their roofs,” Ms Sitou said. “It also shows the commitment the government has to sharing the benefits of clean and renewable energy with all households.”
The Cabarita community battery is another important step toward retailers providing a community storage service to their customers, so everyone can access the benefit of battery storage without having to install an expensive home battery, ultimately pushing down the cost of their energy bills.
Looking to the future of community batteries Mr England said that Ausgrid was proud of the launch of the first of 400 batteries nationally to be installed as part of the first round of funding. “As more solar goes on rooftops, the grid becomes more difficult to manage as the electrons are flowing in multiple directions,” Mr England said.
“So local batteries like this play a really important role in shoring up the grid, but also enabling more electrification in the future as more people convert to electricity, as it becomes more renewable and more EVs are adopted, and ensuring that we don’t have to build the grid as big as we otherwise would because we have batteries like this exporting at the end of the day.
“That allows us to keep costs down over the medium to long term.” Mr England said that the community batteries will allow residents to install more solar on their roofs, and tap into the same amount of storage capacity as they would be able to if they had a personal battery installed in their home, but at a much cheaper cost.
“We estimate New South Wales consumers could save up to $20 billion if community batteries replaced half the expected home batteries, with the added benefits of continuing to put downward pressure on peak energy prices while maintaining grid stability. “In addition, community batteries take advantage of our existing network infrastructure, speeding up installation time and reducing the need for expensive network augmentation.
“By 2030, with the right regulatory arrangements, we could deliver more than 1–2GW of storage, leading to increased electricity system security and reliability for our customers. “So we are really excited about what these batteries will provide, this is the beginning of a journey.
We’d like them to be bigger, in fact we are looking at batteries that are probably 25 times the capacity of this one that we will soon be putting into substations in Ausgrid land.” Mr Bowen thanked the team at Ausgrid for their speed and skill in installing the battery, and congratulated Cabarita on its launch. “Cabarita is able to say ‘there might be 399 coming later, but we were the first in Australia.’”