Battery-powered homes are unplugging Australians; are Americans next?

solar batLithium-ion batteries from maker such as China’s Tianjin Lishen are already available in Australia, while consumer electronics giant LG Chem is also targeting Australia, as are California’s Enphase Energy and the Warren Buffett-backed BYD, also based in China.

Luring them here is the popularity of rooftop solar, which has created a huge market for storage systems that can soak up the excess power generated by solar PV panels during the day, which otherwise has to be fed back into the grid at little financial gain to homeowners.

Instead of having to draw on peak-tariff electricity from the grid in the evenings, a household can then use stored energy, saving money and helping prevent the grid from overloading. Batteries also provide back-up power for computers, lighting and life-support systems that have to stay on during power cuts.

Households could in theory even move into energy trading, based on power from their battery storage system.

John Grimes of the Energy Storage Council describes storage as “the missing link” and expects strong demand among those with rooftop solar, partly driven by the slashing of the tariffs paid by state governments for electricity fed back into the grid.

“Feed-in tariffs for solar PV around the country have really been cut to a punitive level so many people are now receiving 6¢ or 8¢ per kilowatt hour for the energy that they feed into the grid and are having to buy energy back at the full retail rate of 25 to 28¢ per kilowatt hour,” Grimes says.

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