Company says 7kWH energy storage unit, which uses lithium-ion battery to store energy from rooftop solar panels, will be available by end of year
Australia will be one of the first countries in the world to get Tesla’s vaunted Powerwall battery storage system, as several other companies scramble to sign up Australia’s growing number of households with solar rooftops.
US firm Tesla said that its 7kWH home energy storage units would be available by the end of the year in Australia, ahead of previous predictions it would arrive in 2016.
The Powerwall is a unit that sits on an interior wall. It has a lithium-ion battery, used to store energy created by solar panels on the household roof.
Tesla, which also makes electric cars, is the most high-profile company in the emerging battery storage industry – an area that is seen as crucial in making intermittent renewable energy such as solar and wind into a reliable accompaniment, or even alternative, to fossil fuel-fired power grids.
Canberra-based firm Reposit Power, which enables people to directly buy and sell their stored electricity, has partnered with Tesla for Powerwall’s launch.
There are a handful of existing Australian alternatives to the Powerwall, such as Redflow, headed by Simon Hackett, who founded Internode. Hackett also sits on the board of the NBN.
“Tesla’s arrival is important because they have such a high profile,” said Prof Anthony Vassallo, a sustainable energy expert at the University of Sydney. “The Tesla product isn’t unique by any stretch, but it’s the Apple brand of the battery storage industry, they have the sex appeal that others don’t.
“Solar PV and batteries are such a wonderful combination. Australians have demonstrated they are quite happy to purchase PV systems, Australia has a great solar resource and to have a battery to store that makes a lot of sense.
“There are packages of PV and batteries being offered by retailers and, as prices come down, we’ll see a lot more of this. Tesla’s price point in the US – of about US$3,000 ($4,173) – would be competitive here, it will sharpen up the players to make more efficient and higher-performing systems.”
Vassallo pointed out that the technology still has some way to improve – a 7kWH system will store little more than an hour’s electricity generated by a typical 5kWH solar system, meaning that some people may have to have several Powerwall, or equivalent, systems on their walls.
“I’d be wary of claims that people can go entirely off the grid, but it’s a first step,” he said. “Australia has high electrity prices, and once the price is acceptable I think the take-up will be strong.”
There are more than 1.3m households in Australia with rooftop solar, with the number increasing rapidly as the price of PV systems tumble. State-based tariffs have been gradually withdrawn across the country, while the federal government announced in July that it would instruct the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to favour large-scale solar over rooftop solar in its funding decisions.
Labor has set a target of Australia generating 50% of its electrity from renewable energy by 2030, although has provided little detail on how this would be achieved. The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the goal was “reckless” as the cost of it has not been quantified.
Vassallo said, “Australia could reach that 50% target, it just requires well-designed policies and markets that allow a transition from centralised, large-scale fossil fuels to efficient but variable renewables.
“Storage is a key part to make that happen. The beauty of renewables is that once you’ve managed the capital cost, there is no fuel cost. There’s an energy security there you don’t get with fossil fuels.”