Renewable energy storage adds security, reliability

One of the big challenges for renewable energy has been storage. There’s an overabundance of solar energy on a long summer’s day but not much on a cold winter’s night. Even the windiest places see their share of doldrums. So, how to save the excess on the highly productive days to save for lean times? More and more frequently, Tesla batteries are solving that problem.

In Mandurah, 70 kilometres south of Perth, a community of homeowners with solar panels on their roofs are pooling their energy. Stored using Tesla batteries, the energy will be portioned out to each home in 8-kilowatt-hour allotments. The solar panels will replenish the batteries during the day, and customers will be able to draw electricity back in the evening during peak hours at the cost of $1 per day for 24 months. While participants can opt out at any time, the project went online this month three months ahead of schedules because the requisite 52 customers signed up within two weeks, much faster than energy company Synergy and Western Power expected.

Brisbane’s Bracken Ridge State High School has a classroom that runs entirely on stored renewable energy and is entirely off the grid. Tech startup Hivve fitted the stand-alone classroom with solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall system, and executive director David Wrench said the battery hasn’t dropped below 70 per cent capacity even during rainy and overcast weather periods. He said the classroom will save the school $3,000 annually in electric bills and cost less to set up than connecting it to the grid. Hivve is also trialling off-grid classrooms in New South Wales, where many schools have reached their on-grid capacity, thanks to a $370,000 grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Wirsol Energy and Edify Energy installed a Tesla battery system at 60-megawatt Gannawarra Solar Farm in Victoria, making it Australia’s first solar farm to be retrofit for renewable energy storage. Couple that with connecting 110-MW Wemen Solar Farm to the grid, and Wirsol has had a hand in powering the equivalent of more than 50,000 homes with solar energy this year. This will help Victoria reach its goals of using 25 per cent renewable energy by 2020, ramping up to 50 per cent by 2030. Wirsol has a stated goal of deploying more than a gigawatt of solar energy in Australia by the end of 2020.

In South Australia, Infigen Energy is building a 52-MW renewable energy storage plant at the Lake Bonney wind farm using Tesla batteries. The project should be online by May and is expected to last 10 to 15 years. It will be the second biggest battery site in the state, after the 100- MW Jamestown project, which Tesla built last year in less than 100 days. Infigen has 112 wind turbines at Lake Bonney, and the storage system will help improve the reliability of renewable energy in South Australia, where a statewide blackout in 2016 raised questions about energy security.

As renewable energy becomes more prominent, efficient storage will be increasingly important. In Tesla batteries, it seems companies have found an answer.