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Fitzroy North Community Battery FAQs

Fitzroy North Community Battery FAQs

About the project

What are the benefits?

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, within a low voltage network
  • Enable more homes to go solar

Unlike a household battery, the community battery leverages economies of scale and is likely to be a more cost-effective way to store and dispatch renewable energy.

How were the sites selected? / Where is the battery located?

For this project, YEF and CitiPower have selected a site in Fitzroy North 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.

How close do I have to live to the battery to be connected?

Distance is not a determining factor per se with regards to which properties are on the same part of the grid as the battery. A low voltage network 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 the same part of the electricity network will not need to subscribe, pay any fees, or switch electricity retailer to benefit from the battery’s functioning. The primary benefit is that emissions from electricity use will be lowered. More broadly, the battery helps to put downward pressure on electricity prices by discharging higher renewable content electricity during peak demand, which is typically during the evenings when prices are highest.

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/309kWh. 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 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 design 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 project 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 at the time of the project.

The first aspect is our battery provides more renewable energy to everyone connected to the low voltage network (the part of the grid that the battery is connected to). Other well-known examples are only available to solar customers, whereas ours would be open to everyone, including renters and those without rooftop solar.

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.

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.

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. Provided there is a sustainable business case and community support, YEF and project partners would expect the battery to remain operational for its lifetime (at least 10 years), provided this is beneficial to the local community and the community supports its continuation.

Who was engaged in this project?

Read about our community engagement approach and timeline.

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

YEF also engaged community climate groups on community batteries through the Metropolitan Community Power Hub, which was a separate project led by YEF, funded by Sustainability Victoria.

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

Are there any implications for feed-in tariffs?

No. Our model is independent of the feed-in-tariff system. Solar households will still receive their existing feed-in tariff when they export surplus solar energy to the grid.

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.

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

Is the community battery pilot open to anyone?

The Fitzroy North community battery services about ~200 properties connected to the same part of the low voltage distribution network.

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

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 part of the low voltage network 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, however the impact on electricity prices are unlikely to be noticeable from a single battery system.

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).

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 total storage capacity of 309kWh, 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.