Australia will be one of the proving grounds for the world's second largest solar energy company to test its off-grid solar energy storage, putting solar panels and lithium-ion batteries into customers' homes in Victoria. SunPower is expected to make an official announcement on a pilot project in Australia's second most populous state in the next two months.
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According to the ABC, SunPower is planning to use Australia to test a combination of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels and battery storage, giving houses off-the-grid electricity access during the daytime and during clear, sunny weather conditions with sufficient storage capacity to power applicances for extended periods of poor sunlight and during nighttime.
The current status quo for home solar electricity generation in Australia is for houses to feed excess solar energy back into the grid, selling it to energy providers at around 8 cents per kilowatt hour. When they need to draw power from the grid — during the night and periods of cloudy weather, when solar cannot meet their baseline needs — consumers are being charged up to 30c/kWh. Battery storage would let solar PV users store excess energy on-site, and sufficient battery storage would mean consumers could disconnect from the grid entirely.
SunPower president Tom Warner told the ABC that Australia is a perfect market for pioneering solar energy generation and short-term storage; it is a country with relatively expensive power rates, a deregulated market, and the majority of the landmass gets sunlight of an excellent quality on a daily basis. The government position on alternative energy projects, though, is less clear — Joe Hockey believes wind farms are "a blight" on the landscape, and prime minister Tony Abbott has pegged a review of the 2020 Renewable Energy Target.
For an enterprising individual with enough time and money, off-grid battery backup for solar PV is already possible. Internode co-founder, Tesla aficionado, and current NBN Co board member, Simon Hackett already has a battery-boosted solar energy system set up:
— Simon Hackett (@simonhackett) December 22, 2013