The Energy Future Is Now


As the cost of battery storage technology rapidly improves, the rising costs of energy, and the growing desire for consumer to seek energy independence, we are seeing a growth in demand of off-grid and Hybrid energy solutions in Australia.

Recently the media has provided plenty of narrative regarding the current Energy Revolution. Marketing savvy stakeholders such as Tesla have provided domestic battery storage innovation, which is about to become accessible to the ‘mums and dads’ who have already invested in the PV Solar industry at a grid connected level.

As Feed in tariffs are reduced and incentive schemes come to end of their life cycle the consumer at a domestic level is looking for a way to retain the excess energy they may be producing each day and store the energy for use at a later time. There are many players taking up the challenge to produce products at an accessible price for consumers at a domestic level. Tesla, LG, Panasonic, Neo- Cube just to name a few.

But where does the commercial investor fit in and can commercial businesses benefit from the Renewable Energy sector?

I spoke to Phillip Leslie, a Renewable Energy Engineer operating an innovative business at Smeaton Grange called Living Power and posed a few questions.

Is standard PV solar benefiting businesses?

Yes standard grid connected PV solar works very well for businesses by offsetting the imported electrical with the renewable energy produced on site. Providing the system is sized correctly to suit the load profile of the site the return on investment will generally range between 15% to 25 %.

How can battery storage benefit businesses and is the investment viable?

On large commercial sites the ROI is difficult to justify for a business to be completely disconnected from the grid however there are some clever innovations that can be utilized at a site that will incorporate a standard grid connected PV array and some battery storage. This is termed a Hybrid Solar solution.

For example on many commercial sites it is common for the electrical account to reflect charges based on the sites peak demand. Introducing a battery kit and some intelligent controls will allow peak lopping at the site. As the load rises above predetermined levels the battery kit supplies the additional load rather than the grid. As the load reduces the batteries are recharged via a solar array. This arrangement can significantly reduce Peak Demand charges.

The graph below provides a good explanation.

Essential services such as communication/data, power and light may also be protected from power outages using PV solar battery backup systems. In previous years we may have designed an automatic backup diesel generator for essential services but today consideration would be given first to a PV solar/battery backup system. The diesel gen-set may only be utilized perhaps twice a year but the PV Solar/battery arrangement can have input into the site electrical system every day.

How does standard grid connected PV Solar and battery technology benefit a site?

The standard grid connected PV solar will offset imported energy during the daylight hours and a battery kit will release the energy back into the AC Bus during the night hours. The amount of energy released back during the night hours is proportional to the amount of battery storage available and the battery depth of discharge. Deep daily battery discharges will have a negative effect on the battery life expectancy for traditional Lead Acid batteries and Lithium Ion battery technologies. Good design is essential when considering batteries. Good design and products will ensure maximum battery life. The graph illustrates PV solar with and without batteries.

Why does this technology seem so new?

The technology is not really that new as companies like ours have provided design and build off grid electrical projects for many years. Most off grid electrical projects are located in the bush where the poles and wires are cost prohibitive. So I guess now the bush has come to the city through better technology and more accessible battery cost and keen marketing by companies such as Tesla.

Australia is on the world stage in off grid technology and skills. Companies like Selectronic , Plasmatronics and Latronics has provide top quality equipment for many years. In fact Selectronic celebrated 50 years in business last year and now exports products to Germany.

As there are a lot of new players in the market
how can business protect themselves against
inexperienced startup companies looking for a
quick dollar?

There is a whole new class of engineer called a ‘Renewable Energy Engineer’. It seems to be off the radar of most businesses that good independent advice is available for renewable energy at an Engineering level. Companies like ours provide Design and Specification services to Local Government Councils and NGO’s . Independent engineering services can provide robust specifications that will mitigate risk to the client. An inspection by the engineer prior to final progress payments will ensure compliance with the specifications and client expectations.

Risk Management and Assessment to AS/NZS4360 should also be included in any commercial project and can be provided by a skilled engineer.

Which type of businesses benefits the most from this technology?

All businesses can benefit from a standard PV solar grid connected solution. Awareness of battery storage will prompt some business to discover new innovative solutions to rising energy costs.

For example many construction companies use diesel generators to run remote sites. Our company designs and builds an Eco Generator. This is a containerized solution that houses the batteries, controls and an auto-start gen-set. The generator may operate during peak loads during the day at the site, but the batteries will provide electricity for lighter loads and for security lighting at night. This greatly reduces diesel costs and boosts the construction companies green credentials. We would see the Eco Generator as a business opportunity for a hire company.