Australian news, and some related international items

Perth home entirely powered by solar energy shows the way

highly-recommendedPerth gets first home powered almost totally by solar BKathryn Diss A Hilton home has become the first in Perth to use the Sun to meet almost all of its power needs by storing the energy in batteries while still remaining solar-home-storage-etcconnected to the power grid. (diagram at left not realistic!) 

The home uses solar for 97 per cent of its power needs and also offloads excess supply onto the grid, in what could become a mainstream feature in the future.

Environmental scientist Josh Byrne built the home in Perth’s southern suburbs two years ago with a 10-star energy rating.

But despite having an energy efficient home solar panels on his roof, Mr Byrne was still paying power bills.

So, Curtin University’s Jemma Green proposed a battery storage trial at the home to try to further reduce his power bills. She had spent the past year researching and getting approvals for the project while seeking funding to pay for the batteries and her research. 

Mr Byrne said when he first proposed the house, he did not think batteries would be cheap enough to consider, but now they are.  “For a unit like this you are looking at around about $12,000, so for our power use patterns the pay-back time is somewhere between eight to 10 years,” he said.

“But the expectation is that these systems will come down as volume of production and competition increases, but also as power prices continue to go up we will start to see the pay-back time for these systems being much more attractive.”

Remaining connected to the state’s power grid allows the house to also draw energy off if it needs a top up on a cloudy day or pump energy back into the grid.

Curtin University researchers are monitoring the project to see if the technology can be expanded across the network to flatten the peaks and troughs of solar power on the grid.

Battery storage for solar could benefit network: researcher

Currently the State Government restricts households from directly uploading power from batteries to the grid, only allowing it from solar panels.

But Curtin University’s Jemma Green said batteries provided huge benefits for the network.

“The battery is going to reduce the upload of electricity during daylight hours when the Sun is shining,” Ms Green said.

“Perhaps we could use the battery at night for household consumption, and if there is any excess it can be used as load balancing to smooth out peak demand for electricity.”

Energy Minister Mike Nahan has indicated he would support the move.

Ms Green said the research would also aim to inform public policy.

“The research is looking at what are the implications for consumers in installing batteries in their houses and apartments,” she said.

“If there is mainstream uptake of batteries, what is the impact going to be to our grid, our utilities and their business models.

“For property developers, I think, it is quite an exciting proposition to put solar and batteries on strata to avoid having to do headwork upgrades of substations and transformers.”

Energy poverty ‘must be avoided’

But Mr Byrne warned not all houses could afford to go “off grid” and the power network must be maintained in urban areas.

“The grid is always going to be essential in cities and towns in particular for a number of reasons,” he said.

“Firstly not everyone can afford to put PVs [photovoltaics] and batteries in … there will always be some that want to be isolationist and self-reliant and get off the grid, but I think they will always be the minority.

“My approach is let’s be grid optimists — it is a wonderful piece of infrastructure, we need to think about how we are generating the power that is going into it and look towards renewables to do that.

“But we also have to get a lot smarter about how we store that power around the grid.”

October 9, 2015 - Posted by | solar, storage, Western Australia

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