Pole-Mounted Battery Trial

We are conducting a trial of pole-mounted batteries across our network that operate as a community battery. Community batteries allow residents to access battery storage without the upfront costs of buying and installing their own battery and allow apartment owners and renters to reap some of the benefits from the energy transition.

Pole-mounted batteries keep locally generated solar power local. Local power means electricity is more reliable and builds greater energy resilience. 

Pole-mounted batteries store excess solar energy generated during the day to use later during times of peak demand after the sun has gone down. This is shared across the local community with non-solar neighbours, including renters and apartment owners. This approach gives local communities the opportunity to make the most of renewable energy resources during the day and reduce pressure on the electricity grid in the evening. 

How does the trial work?

We've partnered with Origin Energy to provide customers with access to a pole-mounted battery. If you would like to participate there is no requirement to be an existing Origin customer - participation in the pole-mounted battery is separate to your existing electricity bill.

The trial is being run in five different communities: Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Port Macquarie and Wagga Wagga and is expected to run for at least two years. We will be installing 35 pole-mounted batteries across these communities with a total capacity of approximately 2.5MWh, serving around 630 customers.

The trial will look at how pole-mounted batteries can support the energy transition and investigate the benefits to customers and the wider community.

Customers participating in the trial can rent a portion of the battery, up to 4kWh per day, to virtually store and access neighbourhood solar energy, helping to reduce their household energy costs when they take part. 

Details on how to participate will be communicated over the coming months. 

Battery storage: the future of energy

Over 27% of our customers have installed solar on their rooftops and we forecast this to increase to over 60% by 2037. As we continue the renewable energy transition the use of battery storage needs to increase to accommodate this growth in solar energy in our electricity network. This will allow us to capture excess renewable energy generated during the day to use in the evening, helping to stabilise our network. Batteries also offer a range of other benefits:

  • Provide customers with additional value from rooftop solar.
  • Allows for the storage and use of locally produced renewable energy, keeping downward pressure on network prices. 
  • Provides customers with access to new energy solutions.
  • Supports renewable energy and plays a key role in allowing our network to transition to a clean energy future.
  • Helps to regulate voltage on the network and improves network quality in the local area.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have provided answers to the most common questions below. View our full list of our FAQs (including more detailed technical information).

  • What is this project all about?
    We're installing 35 batteries on poles in five towns in regional NSW: Armidale, Port Macquarie, Dubbo, Bathurst, and Wagga Wagga. This project helps people in these areas to generate, store and use local renewable energy.

    Essential Energy will own, install, and maintain the batteries. Origin Energy will operate the battery and offer battery storage services for customers within the trial area, allowing them to access battery storage without the need to install it in their own homes. 

    We want to learn how to best use these batteries to help the community and to find out what people want from this kind of service.
  • What is a community battery?
    Community batteries are connected to the electricity grid and serve nearby homes and small businesses. With more people getting solar panels and sending energy back to the network, there's a need to store this solar power efficiently. These batteries store excess solar during the day and share the energy back when energy demand is high and solar systems are no longer generating in the evening.

    With community batteries, communities can generate, store, and use locally sourced renewable energy, which means all customers, with solar systems or without, can receive benefits from their local community battery.

    The use of community batteries supports renewable energy and plays a key role in allowing our network to transition to a clean energy future.
  • What are the benefits of a community battery?
    Community batteries support renewable energy and play a key role in allowing our network to transition to a clean energy future. These batteries store excess solar during the day and share the energy back when energy demand is high and solar systems are no longer generating. Communities can generate, store, and use local renewable energy, receiving better value from their rooftop solar.
    The use of batteries across our network provides an innovative way to make new energy solutions available, harness rooftop solar and support regional NSW through the energy transition.
    Batteries play a unique role in empowering communities to share and use energy for a better tomorrow.  Some of the benefits include:
    • Providing customers with opportunities to maximise the value of their energy assets
    • Providing customers with new energy solutions 
    • Supporting a sustainable and clean energy future and helping to accelerate Australia’s transition to net zero
    • Providing energy storage solutions to keep downward pressure on network prices  
    • Batteries can enhance the power quality of energy during peak demand when everyone is using power, alleviating network constraints. 
    In addition, pole mounted community batteries allow flexibility of location and are placed where they can offer the most benefits to customers and the network. 
  • Why is Essential Energy installing community batteries?
    Community batteries support renewable energy and play a key role in allowing our network to transition to a clean energy future. 

    Essential Energy is helping NSW reach its goal of a net zero economy by 2050 by upgrading our electricity network with renewable energy sources such as microgrids, solar farms, and community batteries.  With the increase in rooftop solar generation, this means there is often excess solar which is generated onto the network, however, remains unused. Community batteries help solve this by storing and sharing this renewable energy.

    These batteries also provide opportunities for households without solar panels to use renewable energy. Customers can utilise the benefits of energy storage without large up-front costs, maintenance, or location considerations.
  • How do community batteries help the network manage abundant solar energy generating during the day?
    Rooftop solar has transformed how the electricity network is used. There is now a two-way flow of electricity to the grid, sending and receiving.  The use of batteries allows Essential Energy to manage peak demand periods and voltage on our network, especially as solar penetration increases. Batteries are vital for handling these changes, especially during peak demand times.

    An alternative to batteries would be to upgrade the electricity network with more transformers, however this would be expensive and offer fewer benefits to communities.
  • How will the battery reduce carbon emissions?
    Battery storage enables emissions reductions when it charges during the day from zero emission solar energy and discharges it at times of peak demand in the evening after the sun has gone down, reducing the reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
  • How does the Pole Mounted Battery trial work?
    We've partnered with Origin Energy to provide customers with access to the batteries, but you don't have to be an Origin customer to participate. Your participation in the community battery is separate to your existing electricity bill. Origin Energy will be inviting you to join a 12-month energy storage contract. You pay a small monthly subscription fee to access up to 4kWh of capacity from the battery each day, and in return you will receive a monthly rebate. 

    Details on how to participate will be communicated over the coming months.
  • How many community batteries will Essential Energy trial?
    We are running several trials of community batteries. For the pole-mounted battery trial we will be installing a total of 35 batteries across the locations of Armidale, Port Macquarie, Dubbo, Bathurst, and Wagga Wagga.
  • Why have you selected Armidale, Port Macquarie, Dubbo, Bathurst and Wagga Wagga for the sites for this trial?
    We chose these communities for our trial for several reasons:
    • Range of available locations due to the size of the regional communities
    • Skillset of employees in those communities, plus the opportunity to upskill employees across our network with the battery design and installation across multiple locations 
    • Diversity of locations to work out what different communities are looking for with local energy storage solutions 
    • Testing in different climates—coastal, arid, cold, and hot—helps us understand how the batteries perform in various conditions.
  • How did you choose which poles to install the batteries on?
    A number of considerations and site factors have been taken into account when selecting the location for each battery:
    •  we focussed on areas with high customer solar penetration;
    •  we identified low voltage circuits with recorded or anticipated network constraints (i.e. high/low volts, light flicker/dips, solar export limits);
    •  we have grouped batteries in neighbouring circuits (same local area) where possible to assist with the 'storage-as-a-service' product offering;
    •  we have utilised existing poles in road reserves where possible and avoided complex structures while considering audio/visual impacts to customers
    •  we have utilised constrained substations/circuits in order to trial the impact batteries can have in resolving different network issues such as peak shaving, voltage support, solar hosting capacity (greater export for customers) and phase balancing.
  • Why do you mount these batteries on poles?
    It’s a good use of our existing infrastructure and it means we don’t need to occupy land. We have existing power poles across our network area which provides many options to place the batteries without the need to consider easements. The pole mounted batteries also allow us to get close to the distribution substations where existing network constraints occur and solve these issues.
  • How is the trial different to installing my own battery?
    The pole mounted battery trial aims to explore an alternative solar storage concept where solar customers can virtually store their excess solar energy and receive the benefits of solar storage without the need to install a household battery. There are some advantages to accessing storage via a network connected battery instead of installing your own battery:
    •  customers don't have to pay any upfront battery purchase and installation costs for a network connected battery. The upfront costs of a battery are a significant barrier for many;
    •  there are no maintenances costs or risks around battery failure/malfunction;
    •  doesn't take up space on your property and removes any fire risk around having a battery in your home;
    •  renters and apartment owners generally are unable to install a battery and access the benefits that come with it, a community battery provides these customers with an opportunity to share in the benefits.

  • Are the batteries safe?
    The batteries selected for the trial are designed, built and tested to stringent requirements. Issues in battery systems typically occur due to factors such as overcharging, physical damage, manufacturing defects, or internal short circuits. To mitigate potential hazards, safety measures such as temperature monitoring, voltage regulation, and protective enclosures have been implemented in the battery systems. While risks with any technology cannot be eliminated, it has been effectively managed through appropriate design, installation, and operational and maintenance practices.
  • What is the risk of a battery catching on fire?
    Pole mounted batteries are designed with safety in mind, and incorporate rugged enclosures, cutoff mechanisms, and thermal management systems to minimise the risk of thermal incidents and ensure safe operation even in the event of collisions or other unforeseen event. Additionally, proper installation and operation practices and adherence to safety standards further enhance the resilience of battery systems against the event of thermal runaway.
  • Are local fire authorities trained to deal with battery fires?
    Fire and Rescue NSW in collaboration with Rural Fire Service is leading a program which will look at fire service response to lithium-ion battery fires, end-of-life lithium ion battery hazard management, electric vehicle fires in structures, and fire propagation in energy storage systems.