Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Off the Grid


Credit: dmfoto12/Adobe

By Cameron Shearer

Australians have taken to solar energy, but much of the electricity they generate cannot be stored and is returned back to the grid. However, commercial residential battery systems are now available, with new technologies on the horizon.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

An increasing number of Australian households now produce their own electricity through rooftop solar panels. During a typical day, the electricity generated will be used to run some appliances, and any power left over is returned to the electricity grid with the homeowner receiving a feed-in tariff for the electricity they return. The plan of the homeowner is for the initial cost of the solar panel installation to be slowly paid back through lower power bills and feed-in tariffs.

The drawback of many renewable energy sources is that the power produced is intermittent and peak energy generation rarely matches peak usage. Solar energy is no different, with peak solar panel output occurring around midday while peak household electricity usage occurs in the evening. This mismatch in peak output and usage would not be a problem if the cost of electricity was equal for both the feed-in tariff and what is charged by the electricity provider.

The recent announcement by Tesla of the Powerwall, a lithium ion-based residential battery storage system, has many people considering going off the grid and relying upon their solar panels to generate their electricity and then storing any excess in their own battery and using it on demand.

Why hasn’t this been done before? The answer to this question lies in the technological advancement of the rechargeable battery,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.