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Community Batteries

Community Battery FAQs

About our community battery

What are the benefits of the initiative?

The community battery aims to

  • Lower emissions from electricity use
  • Store and redistribute excess solar energy from local roofs
  • Share benefits across all properties, not just those with rooftop solar, on one part of the subnetwork

Unlike a household battery, the community battery leverages economies of scale and is likely to be a far more cost-effective way to store and dispatch renewable energy. A community battery trial will also demonstrate how mid-scale batteries can improve energy affordability and energy equity.

How are the sites selected? / Where will the battery be located?

For this project, YEF and CitiPower have selected site in North Fitzroy on CitiPower-owned land, at 193-205 McKean Street.

The battery location was decided in consultation with the community. The main factors influencing the location included: available physical space, community support, areas of network constraints (congestion in the network) – which a battery is designed to alleviate – levels of existing rooftop solar in the area, land access and ownership, accessibility for maintenance and operations, and planning regulations.

Key considerations as advised by the Community Reference Group included:

  • Noise concerns
  • Visual impact
  • Size / footprint
  • Final location / positioning
  • Safety
  • Risk of graffiti / tagging

Each of these items were worked through together with the project partners and Community Reference Group. Read more about the community engagement process.

 

What do you mean by ‘trial’?

This project is considered a pilot project or a trial of a community battery in the sense that we are trying out new ways of storing and providing access to renewable energy for the community.

This includes testing a range of facets needed to determine how install and operate a community battery in an inner-urban environment efficiently and equitably. Aspects include how a battery would technically and physically be connected to the grid and how the battery software would assess when to charge and discharge electricity from the battery according to demand or changes in the grid.

The project has been funded by the Victorian Government through the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s (DELWP) Neighbourhood Battery Initiative.

What’s the distance limitation on how far you can be from the battery?

There is no set distance limitation on how far you can be from the battery. Rather, those properties connected to the same part of the network of the battery will automatically benefit. A subnetwork is the local part of the electricity network that your property is connected to. This is part of the fixed infrastructure and not something that YEF can change. At this stage, residents on that subnetwork will not need to subscribe, pay any fees, or switch electricity retailer to benefit.

How many batteries will be installed?

A single battery system made up of four cabinets, including all switchboard gear and inverter. The intention is to provide enough battery storage capacity to service a neighbourhood of up to 200 households during evening peak demand. Read about the battery selection.

What is the size of the battery?

Pixii’s PowerShaper Batter Energy Storage System unit is 110kW/285kWh. Read about the battery selection.

Generally speaking, a community battery may be about the size of a small-to-large 4WD vehicle, depending on the capacity of the battery. The smaller the physical size of the unit, the less energy it is able to store.

A community battery may range in storage capacity from 100 kilowatt-hours (suitable for tens of households) to five megawatt-hours (MWh) (a few hundred homes).

The site location and available land can determine the size of the battery, or whether multiple smaller batteries are used instead of a single larger unit.

What is the life expectancy of the battery?

At least 10 years, but subject to the formal period of the pilot based on YEF’s funding arrangement with DELWP. Depending on how rapidly technology changes over the coming years and the demand from the local community for existing and future services, like EV charging, it may be necessary to expand or replace the battery units. The good news is that the Pixii PowerShaper battery unit is highly modular and can be expanded and its battery modules replaced as required.

Is this the first community battery trial in Victoria?

No, this is not the first trial of a neighbourhood-scale battery in Victoria. There are other projects, including a pole-mounted batteries projected operated by United Energy, and a Yackandandah community battery. However, these projects differ from the Yarra Community Battery Trial in a number of ways, including how the batteries are intended to be owned and operated. This trial is exploring a number of firsts, including a hybrid community-owned structure, as well as designing a community battery that can benefit all energy users in an area, not just solar customers.

Where has this been done before?

A community battery pilot of this kind (in an inner-urban environment, close to residential properties) has not been done elsewhere in Australia, as far as we know. There are however, a number of other community battery trials around Australia that are investigating different outcomes, and exploring different models to the one we are pursuing in Yarra. The first community battery trials in Australia were run from 2016-2021 in Western Australia and the findings from that project are available here.

What makes this trial different?

There are two main aspects of the Yarra Community Battery project which are very different to all other community battery trials and installations in Australia so far.

The first aspect is our battery will be able to provide more renewable energy to everyone connected to the subnetwork (the part of the grid which the battery is connected to). Other well-known examples are only available to solar customers, whereas ours would be open to everyone, including tenants and those without rooftop solar through an electricity retailer.

The second aspect is the funding and ownership model. We are pursuing an outcome which would enable the battery to be owned by a third-party, which is neither a network operator or an electricity company. The ownership model is yet to be determined, but it may in the future enable local residents in and around the battery to invest in the battery and potentially become shared owners of the battery itself in the future. These options are being investigated.

Who will operate the battery?

At the outset, YEF will operate this battery as the grant recipient from the Victorian Government. However, lessons learned from this trial will direct decisions for the best operation and ownership models. We will update this response when we have further details.

Will the battery remain in operation at the end of the trial?

This is the hope, however it will depend on the outcomes and lessons learned from the trial. Provided there is a sustainable business case and community support, YEF and project partners would expect the battery to remain operational after the end of the trial, provided this is beneficial to the local community and the community supports its continuation.

Who has been engaged in this project?

Read about our community engagement approach and timeline.

YEF and partners, including Yarra Council, are consulting widely with the Yarra community more broadly before conducting targeted engagement and consultation activities with the trial site residents and businesses.

YEF and Yarra Council formed a Community Reference Group (CRG) made up of several local residents in Fitzroy North. The CRG has and continues to inform the design and location of the community battery, as well as informing the project team’s decision-making.

YEF has engaged CitiPower, the electricity network provider, the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and national experts from the Battery Storage & Grid Integration Program researchers at The Australian National University.

YEF is also engaging community climate groups on community batteries through the Metropolitan Community Power Hub, which is a separate project run by YEF, funded by Sustainability Victoria.

The funding for this trial provided by the Victorian Government through the Neighbourhood Battery Initiative was announced in August 2021.

Are there any implications for feed in tariffs?

No. Our model is independent of the feed-in-tariff system.

Where can I get more information or make a contribution?

Visit www.yef.org.au/community-batteries to learn more. You can contact YEF via information@yef.org.au at any time if you have questions about the trial. Make sure to subscribe to YEF’s newsletter to receive regular updates about the trial project.

Battery FAQs

What is a community battery?

A community battery, also sometimes referred to as a “neighbourhood battery”, is a type of energy storage that can increase peoples’ accessibility and availability of renewable energy.

These batteries are bigger than a home battery. While a typical household battery (often used to store rooftop solar energy) might have a power capacity up to about 10 kilowatt-hours (kWh). This might be enough to power your average household for a day. On the other hand, community batteries range from 100 kWh to five megawatt-hours (MWh) in capacity, enough to power a small neighbourhood.

Community batteries can be connected ‘in front of the meter’ to the electricity network, that is, they are located away from your home or property and connected to the local network as a standalone unit. A community battery would typically be located at the street level close to where electricity is being consumed and generated. It would ideally be placed somewhere towards the middle of the “feeder”, and close enough to specific electricity infrastructure such as a “transformer”, so that they can operate effectively and deliver services efficiently to the community.

feeder is a cable or line that carries power from a transformer along a street, typically overhead supported by power poles, but it can also be buried underground. Supply to each property is provided by a smaller cable from the feeder to a box on the side of a house or building.

transformer is a common electrical device that is either ground-mounted or pole-mounted. The pole-mounted transformers have lower capacity but are very common in suburban neighbourhoods. The purpose of a transformer is to ‘transform’ the voltage of electricity from 11,000 volts or 22,000 volts to the voltage that we use at home, 230 volts, or 415 volts if you have three phases coming into your property.

Community batteries can be owned by electricity distribution businesses or third parties such as community energy groups, electricity retailers, aggregators, and private investors.

What does a community battery do?

Community batteries can provide a wide range of social, economic and technical benefits, including:

  • Allowing more solar installations: They can enable the network to support more rooftop solar by storing electricity generated by solar systems during the day and discharging it during the evenings when local demand is highest. This can enable people to generate and consume more renewable energy locally and support emissions reductions targets.
  • Network support: They can be used to avoid costly network upgrades by providing services that help to manage electricity congestion in the network. Lower costs of maintaining and upgrading the network may put downward pressure on electricity costs.
  • Market services: They can participate in spot price arbitrage in the wholesale electricity market (buying electricity when prices are low and selling when they are high), which can help put downward pressure on electricity prices for everyone. They can also provide services that help maintain the security and reliability of the electricity system and reducing the risk of blackouts.
  • Virtual shared storage service for customers: Community batteries offer a more affordable option for energy storage than household batteries, which are currently relatively expensive for most customers. YEF is investigating how a platform could be used to allow locals to store excess solar generation in the battery during the day and draw down on it in the evening. According to the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning (DELWP), participation in shared storage schemes may be cheaper, more efficient and more flexible than purchasing a household battery, avoiding installation and maintenance costs, as well as relocation constraints.

How much energy does a battery store?

Community or neighbourhood scale batteries range in power capacity from approximately 100 kWh to five megawatt-hours (MWh) and may service 20-40 homes up to a small town, depending on the size. YEF’s Fitzroy North community battery will have a power capacity of 284kWh, to support approximately 200 homes during evening peak demand.

How does the battery itself work?

Excess solar energy produced locally would be absorbed by the battery, and then discharged during times of peak demand. When locally generated solar is unavailable (for example on cloudy days), the battery might charged with renewable energy from a remote wind farm or solar farm, providing renewable energy content for local energy users. The battery itself would use lithium-ion technology, the industry standard form of electricity storage for batteries. This is the same technology used for smartphone batteries. Read about the battery hardware.

What are the noise levels?

The battery unit does make noise when it is charging and discharging. This would occur during the day when the sun shines and in the evening especially during peak demand, and not at night. Battery systems will typically include an air conditioning unit which will also contribute to the noise levels of the battery.

The noise levels of our chosen battery (a Pixii PowerShaper) will be extremely low with the installation design that YEF, the local community, and supplier (Pixii) have co-created. We have determined that noise will not be an issue for local residents even those living closest to the battery, and we believe our selected model and installation design to be one of the best for inner-urban residential environments.

Generally speaking, a community battery (depending on the model and size) could range from about 50-70 decibels at 1 metre from the unit. 50 dB can be equated to the sound of a conversation at home, and 70 dB can be equated to a vacuum cleaner. Note that 50 dB is only 25% as loud as 70 dB because dBA is on a logarithmic scale.

Whether this sound is an issue in practice will depend on:

  • Sound treatment within the battery cabinet itself
  • Which direction the battery is facing (where is sound projecting and how might it be reflecting off surfaces)
  • The natural acoustic properties of the in situ environment (e.g. is it concrete, grass, vegetation, brick walls, or open space)
  • Any environmental sound treatment or insulation as part of the installation
  • The distance from the battery to nearby properties (and how sound will degrade over that distance)
  • Are there any competing ambient sounds (like traffic in the distance) that would drown out the sound of the battery

Noise can be managed by installing acoustic panels within or outside of the battery unit. Steps to protect the local quiet and ambience of the neighbourhood in which the battery is located has been a priority for project management and planning.

Are community batteries safe?

Yes, the batteries that YEF will install will be safe. Our selection of suppliers and our testing of their technology follow a rigorous process to ensure that they operate safely and do not pose a fire threat and operate within Australian standards for Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMF).

YEF is working with a team of engineers from CitiPower, the battery supplier, Pixii, and the installer, Ventia, to ensure safe installation of the battery.

How can community batteries help facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles?

Community batteries provide storage just as EV charging stations do. The step to adding chargers to an installation is not difficult, but it is not in-scope of this pilot project though. Community batteries can be seen as helping suburbs to become “EV-ready” and are likely to be a key consideration for future community battery rollouts.

Will the batteries be derived from the usual Lithium, if so, is there a sustainable source available?

The selected battery, the Pixii PowerShaper, is by far the most sustainable battery model from a lifecycle analysis point of view out of more than a dozen options evaluated through an exhaustive assessment and evaluation process. The battery module manufacturers are the first in the world to announce manufacturing of battery modules made from 100% recycled materials, and up to 95% of the physical materials used in the PowerShaper will be recyclable. Read more about the battery selection.

Can community batteries be used for embedded networks?

They can, however, it is up to the embedded network operator to initiate the process for embedded network customers to benefit from. If the community battery was installed outside the embedded network, the embedded network operator could benefit and could pass on the benefit to all of their customers. Communities and developers should engage early in new developments to explore how future communities could benefit from community batteries. Contact YEF and our battery experts can discuss your options.

For Fitzroy North residents

How can I participate in the community battery?

Properties connected to the same part of the network as the battery will automatically be beneficiaries of the battery functions.

Residents do not need to pay a fee, subscribe, contact or change electricity retailer to benefit. Residents who want to know if their property is connected to the same part of the network as the community battery can contact YEF.

The primary benefits to those on this local network include:

  • Excess solar exported (usually during the day) may be soaked up by the battery, then discharged during peak demand times (usually evening)
  • If your property exports, you are essentially sharing your locally produced solar energy with your neighbours
  • If you want to install solar, the battery provides additional “hosting capacity” of the network to allow this and reduces the chance of being export limited in the future
  • As the battery will collect and discharge locally-produced solar energy (mixed with grid electricity when solar exports are low), your electricity should, on average, contain a much higher percentage of locally-produced renewable energy, lowering your carbon footprint

The primary benefits to everyone in the wider network

  • Downward pressure on electricity prices overall
  • A community battery provides greater supply of electricity during peak times, and with demand staying the same, prices should be lower
  • The impact of community batteries on electricity prices are unlikely to be felt with a single system, however they will increase with more community batteries at scale

Depending on the ownership and investment model, which is yet to be determined, you may also be eligible to invest in the battery itself in the future. The options for community ownership are being investigated.

Is the community battery pilot open to anyone?

The Fitzroy North community battery will service about ~200 properties connected to the same part of the subnetwork.

All properties, including renters and those without solar, will benefit. Residents of Fitzroy North do not need to pay, subscribe, contact or change electricity retailer.

Contact YEF to find out if your property is on the same part of the subnetwork.

Do I have to be with a specific retailer to participate, and what are my obligations?

No you do not need to be with a specific retailer. The good news is, you do not need to take any actions to benefit from the community battery. Those connected to the same subnetwork as the battery will be able to export and consume more locally-produced solar energy, while those in the wider network will – over time and as community batteries scale – see downward pressure on electricity prices.

Will there be an upfront cost or annual subscription, or will it be free to participate?

No, there are no costs or needs to subscribe to the battery.

Will a community battery save people money?

It is likely that a community battery will help to put downward pressure on electricity prices by increasing supply during peak demand periods.

A community battery is designed to reduce costs of locally produced renewable energy, and our trial is pursuing a new local flows because of the shift to the local use of the electricity system (rather than the whole network).

However, it is unlikely that at this scale with a single system that there will be a major shift in electricity prices attributable to the battery itself. The effects on prices are more likely to be noticeable at larger scale with a network of batteries. This is the vision YEF is pursuing in the long-term.

 

How many kWh per day would homes access?

There is no prescription or allocation of power from the battery to specific properties. The battery itself has a power capacity of 284kWh, which should be enough to provide ~200 properties with a few kWh each (on average) during evening peak consumption.

Will you be rolling out other batteries across the network?

That is the hope, but how quickly and equitably we can do this will depend on a range of factors which we hope to gain more certainty about from this trial. A network of batteries will have economies of scale and drive the costs of energy storage down further. A number of cost-sharing opportunities exist for a network of batteries, such as battery control system software, battery management and operational costs.

What aggregate size of batteries do you need to participate on wholesale market?

There is no size limit for buying and selling electricity. It has to be of a substantial size for providing frequency support services though. In this case if the battery is too small, it would be aggregated with other batteries to participate.

Will there be any difference with current grid connection arrangements for solar owners?

There is no impact on the feed-in-tariff system. As far as the connection, if it was approved by Citipower with zero exports or limited exports, that restriction can be lifted once a community battery is installed in the neighbourhood on the same electricity supply cable. This however, is at Citipower’s discretion.

Will community batteries mean Citipower won’t need to charge people for solar exports?

The regulator, The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) will need to address the benefits of community batteries to overcome the problems that excessive solar export cause. In principle though, a community battery would offer that service which would negate the need to charge solar customers in the same neighbourhood, i.e. on the same electricity supply cable as the battery system.

Will solar exporters to the battery be paid for doing so? How will rates be decided/implemented?

The business model does not change anything to the existing feed-in-tariff that all residential Victorian solar exporters receive. In other words, battery will focus on the provision of renewable energy, while the feed-in-tariff for those that export solar is paid as usual – this is separate to the battery trial.

However, the anticipated regulation changes slated to be introduced in 2026 will include charges for solar exports. YEF is exploring whether there are opportunities for community batteries to help negate these charging mechanisms by allowing local residents to export to a local community battery (and therefore not contribute to additional pressure on the network).