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A community battery for Narrabri

Today we were thrilled to welcome an announcement from the Labor party for a community battery at Narrabri.

Located adjacent to the electricity substation at Narrabri, the community battery is likely to be 500kWh in size and is a crucial element to Geni.Energy’s plans for the northwest.

Parkes electorate Labor candidate Jack Ayoub stood side by side in Narrabri with Pat Conroy, Shadow Minister Assisting for Climate Change, along with Geni.Energy director Rohan Boehm to make this exciting announcement.

This announcement turbo-charges Geni.Energy’s plans to create more local benefits from renewables and provides a crucial linchpin to our Renewable Energy Ecosystem project.

Householders in Narrabri who have rooftop solar, on average export to the grid 10 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day of excess generation. These homes generate solar during the day, using what they need to run their house, and the extra is currently exported to the Australian Electricity Market (NEM) for a meagre and decreasing feed-in-tariff.

Part of our mission has been to find ways to create new revenue streams from this excess generation, this is where the community battery can come into play. If around 50 residential solar producers export an average 10kWh/day to the battery, it will be full to capacity each day and ready to trade this electricity back to the community at night when it is needed.

Geni.Energy is currently in the midst of a research project with the University of NSW to model how the community battery will work. Being pledged this battery by the Labor Party means we no longer need to raise the funds to purchase the battery, making the whole business model work better.

“Having a battery already committed by Labor, means we can get on straight away with planning how the battery will run and how we will create benefits for locals, so we can hit the ground running” said Sally Hunter, a director of Geni.Energy.

The community battery will not only create financial benefits for locals, it will help to stabilise the grid as we move away from coal and gas fired power stations and it will help reduce our region’s greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Saul Griffith in his new book The Big Switch - “We don’t have to be perfect to solve climate change. We just need to be electric.”

He offers a vision for Australia to navigate its way through reducing emissions and maintaining the quality of life we enjoy. The statistics below seek to provide a national context to the plan that we have for northwest NSW, based on his book.

In Australia, energy is our main source of emissions. Saul outlines that we can drastically reduce our emissions by replacing fossil fuel burning machines with electrical machines, across our society. On average each one of us consumes 14kg per day of coal, followed by 2.7 litres per day per household of petrol or diesel and 3.3kg each of gas. In total every day we consume 20kg of fossil fuels, which turns into 60kg of Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Generating electricity consumes the most energy of any activity in Australia’s economy.

Each year we as a nation, we use 2,300 Peta Joules (PJ) of energy to create electricity from coal and gas. The shame is that a huge portion of that energy (78%) is simply wasted as heat created as a by-product of electricity generation in our power stations. The cooling of this heat then requires large amounts of water. In the USA 41% of all freshwater reserves are used just to cool nuclear, coal and gas power plants.

Less than a quarter of the energy used is actually converted into electricity through these fossil fuel burning machines.

Our vehicles are no different. Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs), our traditional vehicles, are only 20% efficient. 80% of the energy used by our cars is turned into heat that, in a car is usually wasted, unless you want to heat your meat pie for smoko on your radiator.

Similarly in our kitchen, whilst gas is 90% efficient at converting energy into heat, the shame of it is that our gas stovetops pump 70% of that heat into our kitchen, only 30% goes to heating the pot.

As electricity and vehicles are our two biggest uses of energy in our lives, they are the important elements for change. Both currently waste a large amount of energy, but this can be easily changed through renewables.

Making all our electricity with wind, hydro and solar would eliminate the need for 60% - 70% of energy.

However, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow!

Plus, there are variations between our generation of electricity and our consumption of electricity. This occurs on a second-by-second, daily, weekly and also seasonal basis. The challenge for the Australian Electricity Market is balancing this generation and consumption at all times.

When these two sides of the equation are not equal, the result can be voltage drops and spikes that create blackouts and brownouts.

The solution to balancing this generation and consumption lies in two solutions - demand response and storage.

Demand response is the ability to swiftly move predictable consumption loads such as pool pumps or hot water systems. If we know that these loads need to be filled each day, we can move them to use electricity at times when there is excess generation in the system through energy management technologies.

The second way is storage; one form of storage is batteries. Currently the most popular battery technology is Lithium which has seen prices tumble almost tenfold in ten years and is predicted to continue to drop.

Having your own rooftop solar generation and storing it in your own battery works well. This “behind-the-meter” system is the best utilisation currently because there are no fees for using the poles and wires to transport the electricity. Once your electricity moves onto the electricity network, fees and charges occur. So generating and consuming your own energy is the most cost effective and efficient system at the moment.

However, having a home battery doesn’t suit everyone.

The community battery provides an opportunity for householders who have rooftop solar and have excess generation during daylight hours, to store that excess energy. This stored electricity can then be sold back to energy consumers when they need it most; in the evenings.

This announcement from the Labor Party helps us achieve our community battery so much more quickly. Whilst we still need to await the outcome of the federal election to see this promise through, we will continue to progress our research project and move towards a community battery for Narrabri.

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