Battery storage is at your service…

Let’s admit it – energy storage is still really a complex and complicated subject.

Even after two decades of working in the renewables industry and watching how home battery technologies have changed over the years, the confusion and misinformation that exists out in the industry about home batteries never fails surprises me.

But this also speaks about how dynamic the energy storage market is and how rapidly business models and technologies are evolving to meet consumer and industry expectations.

As we have recently celebrated the first anniversary of sonnen manufacturing sonnenBatteries in Australia, I thought I would share my thoughts and predication's on what lies ahead for home battery systems and their functions.

Battery as a service

The music and film industries has been disrupted by cloud storage and personal mobile devices. No one really goes out to buy a CD or rent a DVD to watch a movie. Being able to consume entertainment by streaming, downloading or buying a song or movie online has changed the way we own content outright.

The concept and model of ownership has changed in many industries “as a service“ becomes more pervasive. The same applies to home batteries as a service (BaaS) which has made an appearance in recent years. BaaS claims it will offer a more affordable and accessible way for homeowners to install batteries.

Instead of paying for home batteries upfront, BaaS allows homeowners to enter into a service agreement with a manufacturer or energy retailer to get access to a home battery for a fixed monthly fee. The question remains whether BaaS may become a reality in countries like Australia where regulations and standards makes it trickier to implement a BaaS model.

Most recently in Germany, sonnen introduced sonnenNow, a package where customers can rent a PV system, sonnenBatterie and subscribe to sonnenFlat for a monthly fee instead of having to purchase a sonnenBatterie outright and subscribe to sonnenFlat as an add-on. While this has been possible because regulatory frameworks in Germany allow for a more dynamic marketplace to evolve.

Virtual Power Plants

The role of home batteries and its ability to provide stability to the grid by controlling a number of home batteries as a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) will be a three-letter acronym that will never go away. As more home batteries are connected to the grid, manufacturers like sonnen can draw on batteries installed to provide ancillary services and to stabilize the grid when needed.

Community batteries

In a few conferences this year, the idea of community batteries has been discussed as a solution towards making home batteries more accessible to households.

The concept of community batteries centers around getting homeowners together to share a battery without having to manage the upfront and installation costs. It has also been touted as a solution to reduce peak demand on the grid and allowing homeowners and tenants who can’t access rooftop solar the opportunity to use clean energy.

In many ways, a community battery replicates what sonnen is doing through its sonnenCommunity, a virtual energy pool that enables supply and demand to be monitored and regulated throughout the community. The downside of community batteries is that the energy management and delivery is often very crude in its ability to manage domestic loads and is more focused on grid services. The broader challenge is that you are putting all of your eggs in the one basket, so if the grid goes down or the voltage is too high the charge community battery will sit there isolated and will not be able to do anything at all. With a residential battery system if the grid goes down essential loads can still be supplied with energy and Solar PV production can still be used to store energy or used directly for the loads.

Australia’s sonnenCommunity will continue to expand as we head into a new year and we’re really excited of its potential as sonnen continues to invest in growing our network of sonnenBatterie owners locally.

Batteries are truly at your service and the new year brings great potential for new business models to developments that will bring home batteries further into the mainstream.

By James Sturch

Technical Director / Australia & New Zealand at sonnen Australia