Home solar battery revolution an economic and emissions game changer

Bungendore's Jane and Dominic Osborne have said the rapid take-up of solar-power battery storage systems such as the one they installed almost a year ago will make it easier for Australia to meet emissions targets set under the climate change agreement signed in Paris on Saturday than many politicians expect.

Dominic and Jane Osborne with solar array and battery storage pack.
Dominic and Jane Osborne with solar array and battery storage pack. Photo: Jay Cronan

Mr and Mrs Osborne, who use a 7.5 kilowatt solar array in conjunction with a 13.8 kilowatt-hour battery to provide power to their 2600 hectare farm, use a Canberra-developed and managed software program to sell their excess electricity back into the grid for up to $1 a kilowatt hour.

This is orders of magnitude more than the 8¢ a kilowatt hour feed in credit offered by their electricity service provider and a major incentive for the growing number of people expressing interest in going solar.

The Osbornes said that when enough people were generating and storing their own electricity "old school" coal powered generators would be obsolete.

"Bring it on," Mrs Osborne, a communications consultant who has worked in the renewable energy field, said. "For us it is not just about the money; we felt we had to do our bit [to help the environment]."


The financial benefits are clearly demonstrable even though the price of panels and batteries has fallen substantially since they commissioned their miniature power station a year ago.

"We paid about $16,000 for the solar panels and that much again [about $32,000 in total] for the battery," Mr Osborne said.

"In the winter quarter we put 500 kilowatt hours of electricity back into the grid. Over the last quarter we have used 4500 kilowatt hours and put 1240 kilowatt hours back into the grid."

The Osbornes, who are part of a special trial being carried out by Fyshwick's Reposit Power, said the company's "controller" turned their lithium ion battery into a "smart" device able to search the grid for the best available spot prices.

Reposit's Dean Spaccavento said because the power was stored it was only downloaded to the grid when spot prices were high.

"The usual price of electricity is $60 a megawatt hour," he said.

"It can, at times of exceptional demand, go up to $14,000 a megawatt hour."

He said the systems had a well-demonstrated capacity to pay for themselves, but it was dangerous to talk about cost recovery times because market conditions were changing so rapidly.

Mr Spaccavento, who is tipping an explosive take up in solar power and battery units across Australia in the immediate future, said this itself would be a factor in reshaping the electricity market.

"Australia is a world leader in solar because of good luck and banditry," he said. "The good luck is we get lots of sunlight; the banditry is the escalation in power prices in recent years."

The game changers have been the falling cost of the solar panels and the development of affordable lithium ion batteries that allow electricity generated during daylight hours to be used at night.

ActewAGL is marketing a 5.2 kilowatt solar system coupled to an eight kilowatt hour battery for $15,000 and experts say smaller systems that would be sufficient for most houses are even cheaper.

"You don't have to be a price taker [for your electricity consumption] any more," Mrs Osborne said.

Reposit Power has welcomed the federal government's announcement of a $1 billion innovation package earlier this month with Luke Osborne, a spokesman for the start-up, saying people who pushed the boundaries needed to be rewarded.

"Australians have a real aversion to risk and this will go some way to changing that culture," he said.