Energex, which is owned by the state government, launches a 12-month trial of solar batteries to investigate ways to integrate them into electricity supply
A Queensland government-owned power company has installed the country’s first solar battery storage system from Tesla as it begins a year-long trial into how it can reward consumers who cut their reliance on the electricity grid.
Energex, which has installed a Tesla Powerwall and another storage system from Californian company Sunverge at its Brisbane training facility, will collect data to work out how to integrate solar batteries into the network with financial incentives for customers.
The trial, which will extend monitoring of systems in Energex employees’ homes to those in outside consumers’ in coming months, follows lobbying by the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, of Tesla executives in the US six months ago.
Queensland boasts one of the highest rates of household solar panel systems in the world, although uptake in recent years has been inhibited by a dramatic cut in the rate consumers are paid for power that they return to the grid.
The commercial release of the Powerwall this year is widely expected to drive popular take-up of a system that at best would supply about seven hours of nightly power for televisions, air-conditioning and other appliances.
However, the cost of solar batteries remains a key barrier for the fledgling industry in Australia. Estimates of time taken to recover an investment in a Powerwall – from about $10,000 for a household already with solar panels to $17,300 for an entirely new system – range from 17 to 26 years.
Palaszczuk said Energex’s Powerwall was “the first operational one of its kind in Australia” and meant “the jobs of the future are here”.
“This is the first step. It is going to change the way Queensland families will obtain their electricity into the future,” she said.
“It will mean a great mix, whether that is from the solar that you have installed on your rooftops with the current mix of what you are getting through the transmission wires.”
Energy minister, Mark Bailey, said the trial of solar battery integration would put the state’s energy network owners “ahead of the game and make sure we can get the most out of the Powerwall and other battery storage systems that benefit consumers and also the network and our electricity grid”.
“Queensland now has got one of the highest solar [photo voltaic] take-up rates in the world, higher than Hawaii, higher than Germany, higher than California and leading the nation,” he said.
“We must manage this transition to clean energy – consumers want it, the public wants it, it benefits everybody and this is a very exciting day.”
Terry Effeney, the chief executive of Energex, said information about the effect of solar batteries on peak demand could allow power network operators to defer costly infrastructure investments or reduce generation where possible.
Contrary to the idea of consumers being able to quit the grid, Effeney said the 12-month trial would “demonstrate that in fact the best way to use batteries and solar is to integrate them into the grid to deliver the best possible outcome to the customers”.