There are 60 solar households in Western Australia’s Alkimos Beach development now sending energy to a large central battery storage facility installed in two shipping containers.

The lithium-ion battery system will provide 1.1 megawatt-hours of storage to the 6 Star Green Star Communities development, which will enable residents to tap into stored solar when energy use is higher than is being generated by solar panels, and aims to save them 15 per cent or more on energy bills. The target is to have 100 households involved, with the potential for more if there is demand, according to developer Lendlease.

The $6.7 million project has been completed by electricity company Synergy with $3.3 million in funding help from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, for the purpose of progressing community-level storage solutions. The project is a collaboration with development partners LandCorp and Lendlease.

“Combining community-scale battery storage and rooftop solar presents a win-win for energy retailers, developers and consumers and can provide households with the benefits of storage without on-site installation and maintenance,” ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said, who joined federal environment minister Greg Hunt, WA energy minister Mike Nahan and Synergy chief executive Jason Waters to officially launch the trial.

“Solar will work alongside battery storage to lower Alkimos Beach’s demand for electricity from the grid. This model has the potential to offer residents cheaper electricity bills and reduce grid connection costs for future new developments.”

Solar on an Alkimos house

Solar on an Alkimos house

The Alkimos development also offers rebates for solar panels, hot water system and energy-efficient appliances; in-home energy monitoring; a variable price plan with reduced rates for network electricity; and an education and behavioural change program.

Dr Nahan said energy storage was “the next logical step” for household solar.

“This exciting trial will inform us about how we can achieve holistic benefits – for consumers, government and developers,” he said.

Mr Hunt said the trial would advance cost-effective residential energy solutions.

“The Turnbull Government’s investment in projects like the Alkimos Beach trial reflects the significant role residential solar and storage is destined to play in our rapidly increasing urban landscape and as part of the nation’s future energy mix,” he said.

Curiously, a press release from Mr Hunt seemed to remove all mention of “ARENA”, replacing it with “Turnbull Government”. The body had been on the chopping block before a recent change in policy that will see the body transformed into a financing rather than a grants body that will assist in managing a $1 billion innovation fund out of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s $10 billion pool.

The project also includes the development and testing of three new electricity retail products, with the goal of proving “an innovative energy retailing model suited for the 21st century”.

“There is also a need to better understand how solar and community-scale storage can operate within traditional networks,” Mr Frischknecht said. “For example, right now there are no tariffs that allow community energy storage to discharge onto electricity networks.

“The trial provides an opportunity for follow-on projects, particularly if similar models are adopted at other residential developments.

He said if the approach became standard for new residential developments, it would help increase the supply and use of renewable energy.

The trial will run until 2020.