$1 million community battery unveiled in Melbourne towards more renewable energy

A battery the size of four refrigerators installed in Melbourne’s inner north is expected to provide solar power to about 200 homes in a bid to bring more renewable energy into the grid.

The battery started charging with solar power right after its unveiling in North Fitzroy on Sunday, despite a partly cloudy day.

The technology was installed as part of the state government’s $11 million Neighborhood Battery Initiative following a proposal from the nonprofit Yarra Energy Foundation (YAF).

It’s similar to another battery in Yackandandah in northeastern Victoria that was launched a year ago by a community group.

Network provider Ausgrid has also installed a handful of batteries in Sydney.

The North Fitzroy Battery is being touted as the first “inner-city” community battery in Australia and possibly the world.

It has a storage capacity of 284 kilowatt hours and will hold excess power from local solar panels during the day and return it at night.

The battery will supply power to everyone connected to the portion of the sub-grid, regardless of which power dealer they use, whether they have solar panels installed or whether they own the house.

A close-up of a mural depicting a flower, a bird and an ethereal figure.
The battery is covered with a painting by artist Hayden Dewar.ABC News: Simon Tucci

Chris Wallin of YAF, who led the project, said it was the “first generation of community batteries”.

“It stores energy during the day and delivers in the evening peak, to reduce emissions from coal and lignite generation,” he said.

Reducing CO2 emissions is essential in preventing catastrophic global warming, successive and repeated reports from the world’s top scientists have found.

The battery is located in Yarra, the city of Yarra in inner-city Melbourne, which was one of the first in the country to declare a climate emergency and has a net emissions target for the entire Yarra area for 2030.

State Energy Secretary Lily D’Ambrosio said it was “a demonstration on how we can give power and energy back to communities, back to neighborhoods”.

Battery the next step in ‘completely new world’

The country’s power supply is growing amid rising energy prices for Australian consumers, exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine and fears that Victoria will run out of petrol.

Earlier this week, the independent Victoria Energy Policy Center advised the new federal government to spend part of its $20 billion Rewiring the Nation plan to accelerate development of more batteries and storage.

Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute told the ABC that the battery is “a fantastic illustration of both the opportunities and the challenges that arise as we fundamentally transform our electricity and gas systems over the next 30 years”.

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