Solar energy storage in Victoria

Interest in battery storage for solar power is growing rapidly in Australia – which has been described as ‘ground zero for energy storage’. What is the attractiveness of energy storage for residents of Victoria?

Why energy storage makes sense in Victoria

Roughly 13% of the homes in Victoria have solar panels on their roofs; many of these homes had their system installed under one of the state’s solar feed-in tariff incentives. The closure of these schemes means that new homes and businesses considering going solar in Victoria should endeavour to ‘self-consume’ as much of the solar power that they generate as possible. These days, every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar power that you do not consume directly is sent into the grid for a nominal credit on your electricity bill – around 6-8c/kWh.

Self-consuming all of your solar power isn’t always easy, but it is definitely possible to consume 60-80% of it if you size your system appropriately and understand your electricity usage patterns. Depending on who is home during the day and how much electricity they use, a solar-only system could make sense for you.

But most homes consume most of their electricity in the morning and afternoon – times which don’t necessarily coincide with peak solar power production. This is where batteries come in – if you can store some of that surplus solar power instead of sending it into the grid (for almost free), you can opt to use it later in the evening when you need it more.

Four reasons why energy storage makes sense for Victorian households:

  • Solar PV system prices are reasonable in Victoria, meaning that producing your own solar power can be more affordable than purchasing grid electricity.
  • Grid electricity is expensive – as much as 50c/kWh or higher if you are on a time-of-use (TOU) tariff.
  • Solar export rates are low, at around 6c/kWh – sending your solar power back into the grid is worth less than using it yourself.
  • Energy storage costs are falling rapidly.

Will a battery storage system keep the lights on during a blackout?

It’s important to note that not all energy storage systems will allow you to keep running your appliances in the event of a blackout. If this is the feature that you are most interested in, make sure to check to see if the system you are considering has this functionality.

Questions to ask yourself about energy storage in Victoria

If you’re thinking about getting a solar + energy storage system for your home in Victoria, it pays to be well-informed. The questions below should help you gain a better understanding of how energy storage could work for you.

Should you switch to time-of-use metering?

If the financial aspect of energy storage is what attracts you to it most, you want to consider switching to a time-of-use (TOU) metering arrangement with your electricity retailer. Unlike a typical flat-rate electricity tariff, under TOU the rate you pay for electricity depends on when you use it. The most expensive period is between 4pm-10pm on weekdays, while other times are generally significantly cheaper. If you can choose an energy storage system that will cover your electricity usage during this peak time, you potentially stand to save a significant amount of money on your bill.

How much energy independence do you want?

Solar-plus-storage systems are essentially systems that allow you to reduce your reliance on the electricity grid by generating and storing your own power. Self-reliance is a sliding scale, however, ranging from complete off-grid living (generally an unrealistic option) to just having a small battery bank to allow you to use more of your solar power when you need it. How you choose your energy storage system will also depend heavily on whether you already have an existing solar PV system on your roof. You can read about energy independence in our article: How much battery capacity do you need?

Batteries still looking too pricey? Consider getting a hybrid inverter for your solar system

Hybrid inverters are inverters which can intelligently manage power from multiple inputs – including the grid, solar panels and a battery bank. They cost a bit more than standard inverters but open up the option of adding on batteries in the future.

Know your energy storage options: Key considerations

  • Battery chemistry: Lead acid and lithium-ion are the most popular and most common battery technologies available, but interesting new technologies such as flow batteries are also quickly becoming available.
  • Important battery specifications: Cycle life, ‘depth of discharge’ and storage efficiency: You can read more about how these affect the cost of storing energy in our article, “A guide to better battery cost comparisons.
  • Warranty duration: Energy storage devices usually have warranties lasting 5-10 years. Make sure you check the terms of the warranty.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

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