What is a neighbourhood battery?

Last modified: 27 January 2023
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A neighbourhood battery is a medium-scale (0.1-5 MW) energy storage device. It is typically connected to the low voltage distribution network. Neighbourhood batteries are usually in the vicinity of residential areas (neighbourhoods). Up till now, they have typically been installed to facilitate the integration of rooftop solar into the electricity grid.

A community battery is a medium-scale battery that is owned, operated and/or governed by a community, whether it be a neighbourhood, a town, or a self-identified community group or virtual community. The focus of a community battery is community benefit.

Note that the terms neighbourhood battery and community battery are often used interchangeably. We use neighbourhood battery in a more general sense to refer to a mid-scale battery within the distribution network. A community battery is a special type of neighbourhood battery characterised by community involvement and control (see National Community Energy Strategy).

You may have also heard the term community-scale battery, which is again used interchangeably with a neighbourhood battery. The term community-scale battery will likely be used to refer to a battery located outside of a suburban ‘neighbourhood,’ for example in a regional or rural area. 

Neighbourhood batteries are usually in front of the meter (see figure below) and thus part of the wider electricity grid and connected to multiple households. In this front of the meter installation the neighbourhood battery will be ‘two-way,’ in that the battery takes energy from the grid when charging, and then provides energy to the grid when discharging. As such, the neighbourhood battery is not limited to rooftop solar from just one building (like with a household battery) but can charge off solar energy from within the neighbourhood.

Neighbourhood batteries can also be behind the meter (e.g. associated with a particular building such as a sports field or small business). For a behind the meter neighbourhood battery, flows are ‘one-way,’ meaning the battery is only charging from the co-located rooftop solar and then discharging to the energy grid (as with a household battery). In this, the battery is able to ‘share’ stored solar energy with the neighbourhood, but is limited to only the solar energy generated from that particular building. One of the earliest examples of a community battery in Australia is the ’YACK01’ battery, established by Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY), which is a behind the meter battery (associated with a re-purposed saw mill), which shares electricity with the Yackandandah community.

An in front of the meter neighbourhood battery has its own meter and is not behind the meter of another house or load. Graphic by Bjorn Sturmberg.

Neighbourhood batteries are different from grid-scale batteries which are larger, 5MW+, always in front of the meter, and usually located on the high voltage transmission network. Household batteries are smaller, around 5-7kW, connected to a single household and always behind the meter.

In these guidelines, we focus on neighbourhood batteries that are in front of the meter, in line with the DELWP Neighbourhood Battery Initiative. However, choosing between behind or in front of the meter is an important aspect of exploring neighbourhood batteries (see The benefits of neighbourhood batteries). For this reason, we also include some information about behind the meter projects, including the YACK01 battery, in the list of Neighbourhood battery trials and programs in Australia.

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