With a bit of help from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Queensland government's Ergon Energy and California-based Sunverge and SunPower are collaborating on a pilot program, using a combination of solar photovoltaic power production and battery-based small-scale storage, inside 33 houses in Townsville, Toowoomba and Cannonvale.
Queensland already has one of the world's highest penetrations of solar power per capita — and it's one of the sunniest states in one of the sunniest countries in the world; over 100,000 homes in the state already have solar power. A minority of installations, though, are connected to any kind of short- or long-term energy storage, and that's the issue that the Sunverge battery system aims to address in the trial. A similar product in concept to the Tesla Powerwall, Sunverge's battery is a 5kW system made for regular charge and discharge cycles.
The installations will include the ability to be used as backup power in the case of a grid blackout, with mobile-based communication with Ergon Energy, which is installing and maintaining both the panels and battery systems. Each house will get a 4.9kW SunPower PV array — the most efficient panels available on the market today — and a 12kWh/5kW Sunverge battery storage and control system before the end of the year. The combination of solar power and battery storage could theoretically produce and store enough energy to reduce or eliminate a house's reliance on the wider, predominantly coal- and gas-powered electricity grid.
But going off the grid may not be as simple as it seems; energy companies are not happy with the concept of consumers leaving the national electricity network entirely, and are pushing for compulsory connection fees and penalties for disconnection. [Sunverge / SunPower]