Citipower, Yarra Energy Foundation will soon construct first ‘solar sponge’ community battery network in Victoria

Image Credit: CitiPower & Powercor

A Victorian-first community-scale battery storage network will soon materialise in the Melbourne CBD and inner-city suburbs following the signing of an agreement between Victorian electricity distributor Citipower and the Yarra Energy Foundation (YEF).

The memorandum of understanding will allow the two parties to pursue a network of community batteries and crowdsource local investment for the project.

As the first of its kind in Victoria, these “solar sponges” will run throughout the low-voltage electricity network across inner-Melbourne and potentially provide cost-efficient energy solutions to households and businesses. 

“The battery network would work as a solar sponge, absorbing power from solar during the day and releasing it during peak times and at night,” said Dean Kline, Chief Executive Officer at the Yarra Energy Foundation.

Kline added that the shared batteries can act as a “smart solution” for the community by providing households and businesses with affordable energy at hand.

Shining the potential of solar energy

As more Australians are choosing to work from home, electricity consumption across the nation is reaching higher-than-normal levels – leading analysts to believe that solar energy will eventually rise in prominence.

While rooftop solar use in the CitiPower network currently sits at a 5% low, CitiPower’s General Manager, Electricity Networks, Mark Clarke suggests that the number will reach 24% by 2026.

“With this renewable energy source growing it is a good time to be investigating the potential for connecting batteries to support the whole community,” Clarke said.

“By sharing the batteries, customers can make the most of their investment in solar. It benefits all CitiPower customers, even if they don’t have rooftop solar, as batteries help reduce the cost of building network capacity to accommodate more power and manage localised peak demand, particularly in summer.”

The project’s first phase – identifying trial sites, gauging community sentiment, and developing a potential funding model – is already underway. Deployment of the batteries on a broader scale is expected later in 2021.