Alkimos Beach's ground-breaking energy trial

1 Mar 2017

As the world looks for new ways to integrate sustainable power sources in the push for a greener future, the Alkimos Beach community is leading the charge with a trailblazing community-scale energy storage trial. How will the trial benefit residents (and not just their hip pocket) and what are the consequences for the global sustainability community as a whole?

Imagine the world of tomorrow. What are some of the developments that will make massive changes to the things we take for granted today?

The topic of energy is one that dominates conversations around the globe and for good reason – the need to find sustainable ways of consuming energy can’t be ignored. It’s an issue that the Alkimos Beach community in Western Australia, which is being developed in partnership by Lendlease and LandCorp, Western Australia’s land development agency, takes very seriously. As part of a ground-breaking four-year trial, led by Western Australia’s largest energy generator and retailer, Synergy, Alkimos Beach residents have been given access to a community energy storage system and a new energy tariff, the Peak Demand Saver plan, which is a time-of-use tariff specifically developed for this trial. The battery ‘virtually’ stores the excess energy from residents’ solar panels and the solar credits they accrue on a daily basis are then deducted from their power bill. The capacity to store solar power ‘virtually’ not only helps to better manage peak demand, it can go a long way to helping residents better manage their energy use and save money on their energy bills.

The Alkimos Beach initiative is the first of its kind in Australia to trial large-scale community energy storage. As well as benefitting residents, the trial has the potential to influence the future of sustainable energy in Australia and beyond. And it also ticks the box when it comes to meeting the overall vision for Alkimos Beach, which is mainly to achieve a new benchmark for sustainable living.

HOW THE RESIDENTS BENEFIT

Solar power isn’t a new concept, but take-up of solar energy as a means of powering our homes still has some way to go. 

Living in our sun-drenched country makes solar power an easy choice when it comes to sustainable energy. Combine this with the fact that all homes in the Alkimos Beach community have solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and you have the perfect place to implement a benchmark trial that can test the possibilities for new sources of energy. Residents who participate in the trial can save $20 - $150 on their yearly power bill, depending on usage, the PV system installed and factors including weather. 

This estimate comes from the team at Synergy which, along with Lendlease and Landcorp, is responsible for developing the project in collaboration with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Central to the trial is the 1.1MWh community battery that ‘virtually’ stores the home’s solar energy. 

Instead of selling the excess energy back to Synergy during the day, the system helps residents generate solar credits to offset parts or all of the energy they use during peak and off-peak evening periods (between 4pm and midnight). Any excess solar energy generated and not used during these two time windows, is still paid back to residents at the end of their billing cycle, which is another bonus. The battery is housed elsewhere in the community, meaning residents can reap the benefits of solar power generation and storage without having to pay for batteries to be installed in their own home. They don’t have to worry about maintenance of a battery system either. 
Alkimos Beach, solar roof
The beauty of the trial is its simplicity – the system derives its power during times of the day when demand of power is low, and gives back in the evening when it is needed. 

“This most basic benefit that this kind of system offers is that you can take the sun from the middle of the day, when people generally aren’t home, and use the electricity that is generated by solar panels in the evening,” says Ivor Frischknecht, CEO of ARENA, the government body that has put forward $3.3 million towards the trial.

The kids get home from school, the dinner’s being cooked and the sun starts to set – these are the times that the stored energy will best benefit residents and this is when their credits will be applied. The PV solar system on each resident’s roof has done its job during the day when the sun is shining, so residents can use energy stored in the battery to run their air-conditioner and power their home when she is not. The system is that sophisticated that any excess solar credits at the end of the billing period will be paid back to them as Solar Sell Back credits. 

Residents can access the Energy Smart Home package as a first step, which offers them rebates for their solar PV system (mandatory for Alkimos Beach homes) and other energy-efficient appliances. The package further includes state of the art home energy monitoring devices that allow residents to understand just how much solar power their system has generated and how much their household has consumed.

More broadly, the trial incorporates test metering and offers valuable data insights that can help influence sustainable energy projects beyond Alkimos Beach. All residents at Alkimos Beach can also access the Sustainable Living @ Alkimos Beach education program to help manage their energy usage and reduce their overall electricity consumption, which benefits trial participants as well.

BENEFITS BEYOND ALKIMOS BEACH 

What does the trial mean for the wider community and the world around us? Well, anything that prompts us to shift from using non-renewable energy to greener options should be welcomed. It’s thanks to the energy storage trial at Alkimos Beach that residents can take the initiative to cut back on their use of non-renewable energy.

The Alkimos Beach trial also has the potential to showcase just how easily a source of sustainable energy can be adopted at a national and even international scale.

The lessons learnt from the trial could streamline the rollout of sustainable solutions at a community level and influence a major shift from traditional sources of energy. By addressing gaps in residents’ understanding of solar power storage, the trial will do so much to advance the case for using solar energy. It has the potential to be a game-changer in the energy market.

“The trial provides an opportunity for follow-on projects, particularly if similar models are adopted at other residential developments,” Frischknecht says. “If the approach becomes standard practice for new residential developments, this will increase the supply and use of renewable energy in Australia.” 

SOLAR PART OF THE MIX

Will the energy storage trial disconnect Alkimos Beach community from the grid altogether? No, but it will definitely reduce the community’s dependence on the grid. 

“Solar [power] will work alongside battery storage to lower Alkimos Beach’s demand for electricity from the grid,” Frischknecht says. “This model has the potential to offer residents cheaper electricity bills and reduce grid connection costs for future developments.”

Alkimos Beach’s dedication to solar energy has contributed to it becoming the first 6 Star Green Star certified community in Australia under the Green Building Council of Australia’s worldwide recognised rating tool. It is also the first community in Western Australia to receive 6 leaves under the Urban Development Institute of Australia's (UDIA) Envirodevelopment rating tool. Lendlease’s goal of creating resilient communities and a more sustainable future is realised through this development – a place residents can truly be proud of.

And how about global impact? “It is fanctastic to see Synergy, LandCorp and Lendlease partnering together to trial innovative ways of how energy can be delivered more sustainably to households at Alkimos Beach, which hopefully paths the way for similar initiatives in Australia and around the globe,” says Nadja Kampfhenkel, Sustainability Manager, WA, Communities. It’s clear that the Alkimos Beach community is setting a benchmark for sustainable energy, the ripples of which could be felt globally. 

Due for completion in 2020, Australia’s first large-scale community energy storage trial at Alkimos Beach will shed light on possibilities for how we power our homes in the future and help break new ground in the push for a greener world. The community’s residents be the first to benefit from the trial, but it’s the global community that stands to reap the rewards in the future.