The solar boom that’s hit Queensland in the past year or so is showing policymakers the potential for renewable energy solutions. A common problem with solar, of course, is that you can sometimes end up with more energy than you can use. In Townsville, North Queensland, approval has been granted to install Queensland’s first community-scale battery to support the transition to renewables and provide back-up power to the local community.

The battery will charge up on excess solar being fed into the grid during the day and be used to help out during evening peak and temporary disruptions, including storms.

“This is a small but significant addition to Queensland’s publicly-owned electricity system, a system which is delivering cheaper prices on average compared to other mainland states in the National Energy Market,” said Acting Energy Minister Mark Furner.

“Battery storage technology is the next stage in steady progress to enabling a renewable energy future and reaching our target of 50% renewable energy by 2030.”

The 4MW/8MWh Tesla battery will be installed at Bohle Plains on Townsville’s northern outskirts in October, with design work underway now and onsite civil works scheduled for late August.

It will form part of Ergon’s virtual power plant, a high-tech control room at Ergon’s CBD headquarters. The virtual power plant has the capability to draw electricity or reduce load from contracted customers around the state to bolster supply to the NEM during peak demand.

One of Queensland’s publicly owned electricity businesses, Yurika, manages the plant.

A dozen suppliers around the state, including zinc producer Sun Metals, are contracted to provide their excess energy to the virtual power plant, which now has access to 135 MW of electricity – about as much as 40,000 rooftop solar systems.

The virtual plant has supplied power to the NEM 65 times since it was commissioned just under a year ago, including during recent heatwave and evening peaks.

Furner said Townsville was chosen for the grid-connected battery because of the high number of rooftop solar systems and its proximity to electricity infrastructure.

“With around 20,000 residential rooftop solar systems in Townsville, battery storage technology will help ensure power quality and reliability in the local network,” he said.

“It is expected to give the local network greater capacity to take on residential solar in Townsville, as well as provide back-up during summer peak demand.

“The battery will also take pressure off substations and other power assets and will explore how such technology may allow Energy Queensland to push back spending on some network infrastructure.”

The battery should be operating by the end of this year.