Australian news, and some related international items

Communities of battery users could create a virtual power plant.

New power generation: Home battery sharing could build virtual public utilities, The Age, Brian Robins, 23 Apr 17  It was one of the disasters of recent energy policy: the boom in sales of air conditioners without taking into account the impact their mass sale would have in forcing up power prices for all.

Those without air conditioners have had thousands of dollars added to their electricity bill to pay for the network upgrades to cope with air conditioners, since much of the extra “poles and wires” are used only a few hours a year, when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Now, mass adoption of battery storage systems poses the same risk for those who don’t install them. Their adoption will allow households to slash their use of the grid which will leave fewer users faced with higher bills to maintain the network.

Communities of battery users But for German battery challenger Sonnen, batteries are only part of the energy equation. More fundamental is creating “communities” of connected battery users to create virtual power plant.

Or as Philipp Schroeder, managing director at Sonnen puts it “create a platform where private citizens can share electricity and basically build a utility without a power plant”.

Sonnen is already well established in Europe and the US and now it is ramping up its presence in Australia, going head to head with Elon Musk’s Tesla, where Schroeder was, until recently, a senior employee.

“We believe Australia will be one of the leading markets when it comes to this style of development, of decentralised peer-to-peer communities,” Schroeder says. Its product is more expensive than Tesla’s battery system, for example, but as Schroeder puts it the choice is chalk and cheese – would you buy the cheapest car, or focus more on fuel efficiency?

It is a choice the likes of General Electric has also made since, via its GE Ventures arm, it recently took a slice of equity in Sonnen, which is on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology list of 50 most innovative companies.

Establishing critical mass

In Australia, Sonnen is establishing the “critical mass” in terms of installed battery units so that from around mid-year it will launch what it dubs its “community model”: an installed base of around 2000 batteries means it will then be able to offer broader services in both the wholesale electricity market and the so-called frequency regulation market.

“There is probably no better market environment than Australia,” Schroeder said due to the potential quick payback for rooftop solar and battery storage systems.

With “the highest penetration of PV [systems] extraordinary sun-hours, huge understanding of solar, and the extremely high cost for energy”, this all adds up to make the market highly attractive.

“And you also have a grid issue. We can solve the grid issue – stabilise the grid.”………

Taking advantage of renewables

Pressure is building for a business model to emerge to take advantage of the large installed base of renewables energy and, increasingly, battery storage. In Adelaide, AGL is planning to link existing rooftop solar systems into a “virtual power station”, using a government subsidy.

But Sonnen is already advancing down this path, without subsidies, while effectively guaranteeing those with rooftop solar systems and its battery systems pay nothing for their electricity while also having the promise of generating some income from ancillary services it is able to provide to the network.

“There’s lots of value in grid services,” Sonnen’s Schroeder argues. “You don’t have to take care of it; you just have to become part of a community of people who unite to replace utilities……..


April 24, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, storage

1 Comment »

  1. Dennis Matthews
    625 Ackland Hill Rd
    Coromandel East 5157
    8388 2158
    25th April 2017
    The Editor
    The Advertiser

    The transition from fossil fuels to solar and wind energy in SA has been less than smooth.

    The next transition in the energy sector is likely to be electric vehicles (EVs). Awareness of the coming EV transition is restricted by the present relatively small numbers of hybrid electric-petrol vehicles.

    Meanwhile, companies like Tesla in the USA are making about 80,000 EVs per year. In Norway, EVs are 25% of vehicle sales.

    The general population is eager to go down the EV route and it’s just a matter of time before the economics of fossil fuel vs solar bring about the same revolution that we have been witnessing with rooftop solar electricity.

    Battery prices are expected to fall, fossil fuel prices are steadily going up. Another oil crisis will accelerate the EV transition in much the same way as electricity prices have for rooftop solar.

    Now is the time to start planning for the EV transition. Let’s not wait for another oil crisis, let’s act now.

    Dennis Matthews

    Comment by Dennis Matthews | April 25, 2017 | Reply

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