Home to more than 88,000 people, the City of Mandurah is no stranger to renewable energy.
Many of its suburbs are leading the way in solar uptake, and it’s a key reason why the City welcomed our first two community batteries on the grid.
While storing solar energy in a battery is not a new concept, doing it at a community level is.
In fact, it’s world-leading and our two community batteries in Mandurah helped lead the way.
We spoke with Karin Wittwer, Energy Efficiency Project Officer and Bonnie Beal Richardson, Senior Environmental Education Officer from the City of Mandurah, to see how community battery storage is benefitting local residents.
A shared solution to energy storage
The City of Mandurah has been committed to reducing their environmental footprint for well over 20 years.
In 2009, the City installed 2.1kW of solar panels to the Falcon e-library, which translated to the average home at the time. Alongside this, they ran extensive educational workshops for residents and an incentive scheme.
“People had questions about solar, as it was still an emerging technology at the individual household level,” says Bonnie.
“It was a really successful way to fill a gap in community knowledge about solar and energy.”
When it came to selecting a location for the first PowerBank community battery trial - a partnership between Western Power and Synergy - the City of Mandurah was an ideal choice. The local government area consistently sits in the top 10 for rooftop solar across the Western Power network, and at the time was the leading WA solar suburb.
With the interest in solar energy increasing in Mandurah over the last 10 years, a community battery was naturally the next step.
And with so much solar in Meadow Springs, the suburb was chosen as the location for the first community battery storage trial. Shortly after, a second PowerBank followed in Falcon, giving the community access to a total of 221kW of solar storage.
Having a community battery accessible for residents, meant an individual home battery was no longer the only solution to soak up excess solar energy and help reduce pressure on the grid during peak times.
“The battery project at Meadow Springs encouraged residents to think differently about battery technology and sustainability more broadly,” says Bonnie.
Our current community batteries use Tesla technology and were installed by local company, West Australian Alternative Energy.
Why a community battery makes sense
Before Western Power approached the City of Mandurah to join the battery trial, Karin was building her own case why individual batteries for the City’s buildings wasn’t a viable option.
“As the energy utility, Western Power has capacity, knowledge, reach and network access. They are the energy expert, so it makes sense they take the lead and that our role is a supporting one.”
“They have the buying power for bigger systems, like community batteries, and the ability to test new tech that wouldn’t be accessible for the average person,” says Bonnie.
“It was a no brainer,” she continues. That conversation about battery storage deployment is one that Western Power – as the energy expert - can have. There was no reason why we wouldn’t want to be involved with their battery trials.”
Since the first two community batteries were installed, we have rolled out more batteries across Perth metro and regional WA.
Educating the community
Karin explains introducing battery technology to the people of Mandurah has proven beneficial in many ways.
“We’ve been able to build the energy literacy of the broader community and some of the intricacies around that, and peel away some of those simplistic views of how electricity and the grid works.”
In fact, the batteries have been so well received that local residents are asking the City about future batteries for the area.
“People ask me quite regularly if we are getting any more batteries. If this happens we would need to consider the location but as a concept, the more people that have access to the battery, the better,” she says.
The positive sentiment reflects the City’s commitment to environmental education and the different technologies in this space.
In Bonnie’s words, “it shows our community are committed to solar, battery storage and sustainability just as much as we are.”