The biggest news in solar right now is the emerging development of battery storage capability. It’s not a new technology of course, but making solar storage cost-effective for domestic households – effectively bringing solar storage capacity into the mainstream – is a game changer. Tesla’s Powerwall home battery (quickly incorporated in the US by SolarCity) has received significant media coverage, and closer to home, AGL Energy announced, in early May, that it is first major retailer to launch battery storage.
AGL’s Power Advantage proposition will include a range of battery storage devices based on lithium-ion technology. The first device will be capable of storing 6kWh of solar energy and will suit an average family home with 3-4.5kW of solar PV.
We caught up with an AGL spokesperson to find out a little more about the announcement.
Q: How long has AGL’s Power Advantage been in development?
A: We’ve been working on this and in discussions with potential manufacturers for 12 months.
Q: How are the energy needs of your consumers changing? Is it a rate of change that is speeding up?
A: The changing energy landscape is largely being driven by an increasingly energy conscious consumer who is looking for greater choice, flexibility and control of their energy usage at the lowest cost possible. To meet changing consumer needs AGL Energy Limited (AGL) is evolving its business model with a focus on emerging energy technologies such as battery storage and rooftop solar, being the first major Australian energy retailer to offer a solar system for zero upfront cost and a new battery storage proposition. Consumers are increasingly wanting to control their costs and become more energy independent.
Q: Households will be able to store 6kWh of solar energy – can you translate into household use?
A: Household energy use ranges from 5 to 25 kilowatt hour (kWh) a day, depending on family size, lifestyle, season and region. A “typical” family might use around 10-12 kWh in a day, with most of that later in the day. So a 7.2kWh capacity battery won’t meet their entire daily needs, but with careful management of solar and battery they can meet a lot of their needs. In an emergency you can reduce your usage to preserve the battery, for example a typical 400-500 litre fridge/freezer would use 1 kWh in a day.
Q: You also comment that it could be used in a home without solar PV – in what way could it be used?
A: A customer could use a battery as back-up in case of a power outage, or to ensure the quality of power. Also, if the customer has a “time of use” tariff, which means different rates at different times of day, then they could store energy at the cheaper rate for use during higher priced times of day.
According to AGL, this is just the start, with plans to develop a suite of products to cater to a range of home and business sizes and types. If overseas experience is anything to go by, this starting trend could be part of the new normal within a handful of years.