Australian-first battery trial to manage peak demand and keep prices down

Local batteries will soon be a new source of electricity for homes and businesses in Melbourne’s Bayside area with electricity distributor, United Energy, installing the batteries on power poles to help manage peak demand.

The $500,000 Bayside Battery Project is the first of its kind in Australia and involves 75kWh pole-mounted batteries being installed in two locations – Highett and Black Rock – on the low voltage network where the local distribution substations are currently constrained.

Each battery will be charged during off-peak periods and will discharge electricity during peak periods, powering between 50 and 75 homes and alleviating pressure on the local network.

United Energy General Manager, Electricity Networks Mark Clarke said the project combined opportunities arising from the increasing penetration of rooftop solar in our communities with improving battery technology.

“The cost of batteries is coming down progressively but is still out of reach for many households,” Mr Clarke said.

“Sharing the battery infrastructure allows all our customers to benefit from greater reliability and enables us to defer high-cost network upgrades.

“It is an important step forward in setting up the kind of flexible network we need to manage electricity exports from rooftop solar and other private generators in the future.”

In the Bayside Council area, power usage between 4pm and 8pm is increasing and so is the number of solar connections. There are nearly 4,500 solar connections in Bayside, generating 17,668Kwh of electricity. By 2026, this is set to more than double to about 10,000 connections and 46,082Kwh.

Mr Clarke said this was changing the way electricity moved around the network.

“We want to explore how we can use these batteries to manage our network in a smarter and more affordable way,” he said.

Like household batteries and solar installations, the pole batteries will charge at times of the day when there is low demand or roof top solar systems are exporting to the grid. Power from the batteries will be used later in the day when demand spikes on the local network and solar systems are no longer generating.

United Energy spends about $4 million a year to replace and upgrade overloaded distribution substations in order to maintain 99.99 per cent reliability of electricity supplies to customers.

“If the trial is successful, we may incorporate these batteries in other parts of our network to keep network charges low for customers and support us to continue delivering reliable power,” Mr Clarke said.

The two-metre high and one-metre wide batteries will be installed about five metres up the poles and look similar to other network infrastructure such as transformers. The batteries are expected to be installed in February.

The trial is being funded by the Australian Energy Regulator’s Demand Management Innovation Allowance (DMIA) and United Energy. The DMIA provides funding to encourage distributors to conduct research into innovative techniques for managing peak demand.

United Energy has been working with the Bayside City Council in the lead up to the installation of the batteries.

The trial is not aimed at reducing broader electricity generation demand.