17 November 2022

Jacka project to pave way for neighbourhood batteries in a renewable energy future

| Ian Bushnell
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Excess electricity generated by rooftop solar in Jacka will be stored in a neighbourhood battery. Photo: File.

The new suburb of Jacka in Canberra’s north is set to show how communities can be powered by locally stored, renewably sourced electricity and energise the drive to a zero-emissions future for the ACT.

The ACT Government is seeking expressions of interest from the private sector to supply and operate a community-scale battery that would store excess electricity generated from households’ rooftop solar panels.

This ACT-first project is part of the government’s plan to grow Canberra’s renewable energy storage sector through its $100 million Big Battery project, which also includes a proposed 250-megawatt battery and 14 smaller batteries at government sites, including schools.

If successful, the Jacka project will pave the way for neighbourhood batteries across Canberra’s suburbs that would help maintain continuity of power supply.

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The government says Jacka’s newest stage will contain about 700 single residential and multi-unit homes and a local centre. Residents will be encouraged to install rooftop solar to provide the excess electricity.

Three possible sites have been selected.

The tender document says the battery will need to provide a minimum 250 kW upfront capacity and not exceed 2 MW.

The contractor will own, install, operate, manage, maintain, and eventually decommission the battery storage system and develop a sustainable business model that can be replicated and deployed elsewhere.

Taxpayers will have skin in the game with a government subsidy of up to half the total cost of the battery but not more than $950,000.

Payments will be made when key milestones are met.

The government says the subsidy will reduce relatively high upfront and/or operating costs and make the battery a surer bet if the contractor needs to seek more capital.

The contractor will need to provide site remediation, battery recycling plans, and innovative social and environmental sustainability initiatives.

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The government is encouraging applicants to consider battery chemistries that use less or zero cobalt or other minerals of concern to reduce or avoid the social and environmental impacts associated with batteries.

It also wants a contractor to contribute to research partnership ideas directed at closing known information gaps about battery sustainability.

Applicants will need to price their proposals and estimate how much government funding they will require based on battery capacities of 250 kW, 500 kW, 1 MW and 1.5 MW.

Housing and Suburban Development Minister Yvette Berry said building Jacka as an all-electric, solar-powered suburb would save residents money and set the example of how our future suburbs could be powered.

“The ACT has become a nation leader on climate action, and now we are making it as easy as possible for Canberra households to benefit from the shift to a low-emission technology,” she said.

The expression of interest for applications is the first stage of a two-stage tender, from which a short list of suppliers will be compiled to participate in the Request for Proposal stage.

Expressions of interest close on 17 January.

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