Solar batteries to light up disability housing
8 May 2019 at 11:16 am
People living in specialist disability housing could save upwards of a $1,000 on their electricity bill with a plan underway to install solar and battery storage into a new disability housing development.
Disability housing service, inhousing, in partnership with Natural Solar, will install a solar panel system and battery to store energy, into homes in a Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) development in South Australia.
Those behind the scheme say it marks the first battery backed solar energy scheme for eligible participants under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The batteries are designed to retain a minimum 20 per cent charge at all times, so that in the event of a blackout, the backup power can be activated.
Chris Williams, CEO of Natural Solar, told Pro Bono News using an integrated battery and solar panel system was the more efficient option than a normal home solar system.
“A normal solar system is obviously going to produce solar power energy during the daytime when the sun is out, and if someone’s not at home that energy is going to be fed back into the grid and you can’t capture it,” Williams said.
“[With an integrated system], any excess energy that is produced during the day is stored in that battery.”
Each home will also be eligible for a “sonnenFlat”, a device operated by sonnen, the energy provider partner of Natural Solar, that gives users an annual allowance of 7,500kWh hours of electricity for a flat fee of $40 per month.
If the allowance is exceeded, the consumer pays the gap, but any power created via solar energy is deducted.
In exchange, sonnen has access to the user’s battery to move excess power into the batteries of customers who have spare capacity.
With the annual average cost of power around $2,000, Williams said residents who had the sonnenFlat installed would save around $1,500, while residents without the device would receive savings of around 80 per cent on their normal electricity bill.
He said it was important that these energy savings were made available to the people who needed it most.
“Both state and federal governments around the country are recognising the value of solar and battery technology, and I think we’ve all got a common goal of reducing carbon emissions and naturally reducing household expenditure for the people that need it the most,” he said.
Geoff Barber, the COO of inhousing, said solar batteries opened up huge potential for SDA tenants under the NDIS.
“This is our first foray into utilising renewable energy technology on our housing developments, and we are excited to see the benefits for our tenants and in future, extend battery and solar to a wider number of residents around the country,” Barber said.
The plan was also endorsed by federal Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher who said it was clear that household solar systems played an increasing role in helping Australians to manage energy costs and that people with disability shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity.
“I am pleased to see this example of a Specialist Disability Accommodation development using the latest home solar technology. I have no doubt we will see more of this in the future,” Fletcher said.
“If this delivers more choice and lower power prices for Australians with disability, it will bring significant benefits – benefits which can be expected to increase as the technology advances.”
Williams said he was confident there would be a larger rollout of the program in the future.
“There are around about 30,000 homes under the SDA and we see this solar battery initiative as a very strong opportunity that delivers the benefits,” he said.