Installers say “blackout proofing” has become a new buzzword among householders.
The surge in inquiries about home storage battery systems has been almost overwhelming as it adds a new level of demand from customers previously focused on environmental considerations and reducing power bills from weaning themselves off the traditional electricity grid.
Natural Solar managing director Chris Williams, who runs a national firm with its headquarters in Sydney, said the biggest jump had been in South Australia and Victoria, but demand had spiked across the country after the blackouts put the future of electricity grids and renewable energy sharply into the national spotlight.
“We have seen a massive pick-up in demand,” Mr Williams said on Thursday. “It’s been 30 times the normal levels”.
But the blackouts in parts of Melbourne after storms had added a wave of inquiries in Victoria and nationally and that had continued in the past few days.
Another installer, Off-Grid Energy Australia, with headquarters in Adelaide and a large customer base in Victoria, has experienced similar strong demand.
Emily McMahon, one of the co-founders of the business which started in 2011, said on Thursday that customers were now talking about blackout proofing, along with the environment and returns on investment from going off the grid.
“Blackout proofing has become a really big point,” she said. Off-Grid installs Tesla Powerwall systems and RedFlow’s ZCell batteries among its offerings and Ms McMahon said the blackouts had been a catalyst for many customers who may have been thinking about home storage batteries but hadn’t made firm decisions yet.
“People are sick of the grid in general and the high electricity prices,” she said.
The blackouts had jolted them into action. Tesla, led by the entrepreneurial Elon Musk, has been at the forefront of home battery storage products globally, while ASX-listed Redflow Ltd has a market capitalisation of $170 million and is a growing player in residential systems.
BHP gets power back
While householders are taking action themselves in the wake of the blackouts and a national debate among policymakers about how Australia’s national electricity infrastructure can best transition to a system with higher levels of renewable energy production, BHP Billiton was on Thursday gearing up for full production at its Olympic Dam mine after finally getting full power back at the site.
The Olympic Dam mine has been without full power for 15 days because it was fed by a power circuit which electricity infrastructure provider ElectraNet was only able to finish repairing on Wednesday night.
BHP has been able to operate some of its underground mining operations but the above-ground processing infrastructure has been on care and maintenance since September 28.
BHP Billiton Olympic Dam asset president Jacqui McGill said on Thursday the production impacts would be outlined on October 19 in the company’s September quarter production report.
“The focus now is to safely transition our surface operations from a period of care and maintenance back into full production,” she said. The Olympic Dam mine is about 560km north of Adelaide.
The Whyalla steelworks being operated by administrators KordaMentha had full power restored on October 11, and was hit with $30 million in extra costs because of the missed steel production and other maintenance issues.
Off-Grid Energy’s Ms McMahon said households were generally very knowledgeable about the electricity grid and how it operated.
She said most people paid between $20,000 to $25,000 for a full home storage battery system with solar panels for a residential dwelling.
Natural Solar’s Mr Williams said about 95 per cent of his customers who were now opting for solar panels also wanted a Tesla Powerwall home storage battery to go with the system.
Tesla, which is better known as a pioneer in electric cars, opened a retail store in Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre on Thursday which showcases its latest model vehicles and attracted huge crowds.