A new report released by industry analysts SunWiz has updated the estimates of installed solar storage in Australia, highlighting that our market and installed capacity grew by more than 13 times in 2016 to 6750 systems for the year, with that number predicted to triple this year.
image

The Battery Market Report 2017 shows that the nation's businesses and households are taking to batteries with much the same enthusiasm with which they embrace solar, and at much of the same rate.

SunWiz notes that there were 130,000 rooftop solar system installations in 2016, effectively making up 5% of solar installations including batteries in the past year.

SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston, who carried out the audit by speaking to manufacturers and suppliers, says that the uptake is due to intense competition in the country's market bringing prices down dramatically.

"This represents exceptional growth in the Australian battery market, coming off the back of 500 battery installations in 2015," Johnston said.

"There was a significant fall in battery prices mid-way through 2016 and the popularity of batteries just exploded since then.

"What makes it all the more impressive is that most installations occurred in the latter part of the year, setting up 2017 to be another year of remarkable growth."

"Just under 7000 systems may not sound like a lot, but considering there were less than 500 systems being installed the previous year, you start to realised that the growth is astounding.

"To put it another, 3.3 solar storage systems were installed per working hour in 2016 and for a brand new market, that's huge!"

As a comparison, the benchmark is in Germany, where they have some generous incentives for solar storage and a more sophisticated energy market, and they have installed just over 19,000 systems in 2015. 

According to Johnston, SunWiz expects the market to treble in 2017, to a point where 15% of new solar installations will include energy storage.

"The report also finds that a whooping 70% already have plans to add a battery or two," Johnston said. 

"It took hundreds of house of interviews surveys and research to provide transparency into what is a very opaque market."

About 20 manufacturers are producing around 90 products for sale in Australia, with the cheapest battery retailing for $1200, while many larger batteries still cost between $8000 and $10,000.

Johnston adds that batteries held benefits for the entire community, not just with homeowners, and there is potential for the energy stored in batteries to be put back into the grid for the public to use. 

"I'd say three years is when we'd start to see that batteries are playing an important role in the network," Johnston said. 

"It's both something that needs to be managed, but also something that can present a great opportunity."

There are currently two major storage markets in the country - retrofit and new-build - and the report states that new-build customers, generally being the "wealthy folk" who haven't touched PV until now.

It highlights that despite smaller capacity units working out as better value, the trend has been more towards larger batteries, with the report showing that the minimum installs are about 3.6kWh and the most common about 6.4kWh - the trend is for larger units capable of 8-10kWh.

"Small might be better financially, but people aren't buying for financial outcomes, they're buying to get a sense of energy independence," Johnston said. 

"Wealthy customers are motivated by loftier causes than mere economics, and they are often the ones opting for larger storage, as well as the people installing solar for the first time. 

"Smaller storage solutions are more common in retrofits, where PV system owners know their consumption and what their rooftop array is capable of."

As far as battery uptake goes, the report found that New South Wales was the number one location for battery installations - covering around 33% of the installed market, and is followed closely by Queensland at 29%.

South Australia, who only has around 10% of national installs, had the most favourable market for battery installations with its superior solar resource, high electricity prices, and subsidy programs - all of which contribute towards some solar-storage systems having seven-year paybacks before subsidy," Johnston said.

2016 was also the largest year for larger-scale storage projects, with the report noting the 2MW installations at the Sandfire Copper Mine, the 1.1MWh community installation at Alkimos Beach, and the ACT auction.

"But there is still plenty of work to do in the battery storage market, a great deal of which will be in education and regulation," Johnston concedes.

"Our interviews highlighted the storage market is in its infancy and market education is required. 

"Customer expectations of batteries differ markedly from the capabilities and value proposition of most offerings on the market, and salespeople are also caught up in the excitement.

"Batteries aren't yet a commodity - one size doesn't fit all and tools such as PVsell can help identify which is the best option for individual customers."