If chief scientist Alan Finkel gets his way, battery energy storage will be central to Australia's energy future.The move to battery technology is a worldwide trend and three state governments — South Australia, Victoria and Queensland — are already going it alone, commissioning their own battery storage to ensure energy security.
So how does it work?
Photo: The Lakeland Solar and Storage Project in Queensland will generate enough power for 3,000 homes. (Supplied: Conergy)
Batteries are used to store energy from renewable sources like solar and wind. Dr Finkel recommends all large scale wind and solar generators in Australia should have energy storage capacity.
The batteries will be particularly helpful on days when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow.
"It can be used alongside a solar farm to help smooth the output and make any disruptions less likely and much more manageable," said Kobad Bhavnagri, head of Asia Pacific economics and policy at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
"Storage is also very likely to go in at your local substation. Your suburb is probably going to have a lot of storage in it because it adds a lot of resilience to the system. It makes operating the network better, stronger and also cheaper."
Photo: More Australians are investing in battery storage for their homes as the technology gets cheaper. (ABC News: Alex Mann)
A growing number of Australian homeowners are installing their own energy storage batteries for personal use.
The most common technology being used is lithium ion batteries.
"[It's] the same battery that sits on your mobile phone and it's actually the exact same battery pack that is being put into all these electric vehicles that are now coming to market," Mr Bhavnagri said.
"So it's a huge new industry that's been created to manufacture large-scale battery packs for electric vehicles and for energy storage."
How much of a 'thing' will it be?
Photo: Rooftop solar panels are attached to a storage battery to save energy for a rainy day. (Supplied: SA Power Networks)
Mr Bhavnagri predicts solar-plus-batteries will carve out a major slice of the Australian grid.
"We forecast that by 2040 almost half of [all] buildings in Australia, be that a factory or a household, will have a solar system. And a quarter of all those buildings will have a storage system as well," he said.
"So when you add all of that together, we see distributed energy supplying about a quarter of Australia's national energy needs in 2040."
In South Australia, after a string of damaging blackouts Premier Jay Wetherill announced a major grid-scale battery storage facility to be completed this year.
Not to be outdone, the Prime Minister is investigating another form of stored energy, with a study into expanding the Snowy Mountains Scheme, where at the touch of a switch water can be released to drive the turbines.
Now both Victoria and Queensland have also commissioned huge battery storage units to be up and running within three years.
"All of those governments now are turning to storage as a way to bolster the system and the beauty of storage is that you can get that built in six months," Mr Bhavnagri said.
"And you can also build a new solar farm in under 12 months, whereas it would take three or four years to build a new gas-fired power station or a coal-fired power station."
Which other countries are doing it?
Photo: Giant solar batteries installed in Carnarvon, in regional WA, by Horizon Power. (Supplied: Horizon Power)
Ike Hong represents the massive South Korean battery manufacturer Kokam, which is bidding for the power storage contracts in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
South Korea has already adopted battery technology, even though almost a third of its power is generated by nuclear reactors. Last year when a nuclear reactor tripped the batteries saved the day.
As battery prices continue to fall other countries are getting on board.
"In the United States, UK, Asia, and everywhere globally, the utilities start picking up the storage system. They understand the need of the storage system," Mr Hong said.