Family in front of a community battery
Image credit: Western Power

28 May 2021

Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program (BSGIP) research into the burgeoning technology that is neighbourhood-scale batteries is set to be applied in the Melbourne CBD thanks to a three-way partnership between BSGIP, the Yarra Energy Foundation and electricity network Citipower.

A Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed between the three partners that will enable a trial of neighbourhood batteries, or ‘solar sponges’ to be established in the Melbourne CBD and inner-city suburbs.

“We are delighted to partner with YEF and Citipower on this important initiative that will see our research and development come to life through neighbourhood batteries across Melbourne, said Andrew Fraser, Leader – Engagement, Standards and Regulation, BSGIP.

“The partnership allows the research and technology we have developed to be applied in real world applications that will create real impacts. The learnings then allow us to better target and refine our research,” said Andrew.

“The ‘Solar Sponge’ trial will specifically draw upon BSGIP’s expertise in developing smart software that will allow the battery to soak up the excess solar generation of participating customers, as well as provide services back to Citipower to support the grid. The smart software allows the full range of benefits to be realised,” said Andrew.

Chris Wallin, Community Battery Project Manager at the Yarra Energy Foundation said, “While there are a range of options for battery hardware, one of the biggest challenges in this trial is actually the software. “The software will underpin how electricity will be tracked from rooftop solar panels to the battery, and how and when it is discharged from the battery back to consumers and to other services.

“ANU has Australia’s leading experts in community batteries and we are very excited and confident they will be able to deliver the platform for what we hope will be a future network of community batteries,” said Chris.

CitiPower General Manager, Electricity Networks, Mark Clarke said, “With residential rooftop solar energy growing, it is a good time to be investigating the potential for connecting batteries to support the whole community. By sharing batteries, all CitiPower customers can benefit even if they don’t have rooftop solar, as batteries could help reduce the cost of building network capacity to accommodate more power and manage localised peak demand, particularly in summer.”

BSGIP researchers have been conducting cutting-edge research into the technical, social, economic and regulatory aspects of neighbourhood-scale batteries. Neighbourhood- or suburb-scale batteries are a class of battery that complements household and utility-scale batteries with power capacities of 1 – 5MW. These batteries are connected to the distribution network and can provide stored energy for around one hundred homes. Unlike residential batteries, neighbourhood batteries also potentially unlock the value of battery storage to all energy users, including customers who rent and do not own their own home.

Find out more about BSGIP research into neighbourhood batteries here.