EnSync hopes residential Li-ion battery launch will help deliver $15m this year

Hawaiian residents could benefit from community solar-plus-storage following EnSync's decision to launch a battery for residential markets. Pic: jed_ant at Pixabay.com.

Hawaiian residents could benefit from community solar-plus-storage following EnSync’s decision to launch a battery for residential markets. Pic: jed_ant at Pixabay.com.

By Jason Deign

Commercial and industrial (C&I)-scale energy storage developer EnSync Energy Systems hopes to hit USD$15m in revenues this year with the launch of a residential product.

The listed energy storage player will be targeting US and particularly Hawaiian property developers with a 9kWh AC lithium-ion battery bundled with a peer-to-peer energy exchange system, said Brad Hansen, president and CEO.

EnSync has been working to develop a household product for the last two years, he said, “because we thought the market for behind-the-meter solar plus storage in residential would be pretty phenomenal in the future.”

Hansen said studies indicated that the residential behind-the-meter storage market could be bigger than that for C&I systems, which EnSync serves with flow batteries and a hybrid flow battery and lithium-ion product.

To stand out from the residential energy storage crowd, EnSync has opted to develop a fully integrated system with enough capacity to power a decent-sized US home, said Hansen.

“Market competitive on price”

It will be “market competitive on price,” he said, and will come with a 10-year system level warranty and a battery guarantee of 10 years or 30MWh of discharge, whichever comes first.

The battery system is modular, expandable in 9kWh increments up to 27kWh, and uses EnSync’s proprietary DER Flex software to exchange and aggregate energy for electricity and ancillary grid services markets.

Unlike EnSync’s C&I lithium-ion batteries, which rely on lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide chemistry, the residential systems are based on lithium iron phosphate cells which are less of a fire hazard.

The cells are being supplied by one of the top five suppliers in China, Hansen said. EnSync, which changed its name from ZBB Energy in 2015, has around 40 C&I installations, totalling around 20MWh, in the field already, said Hansen.

Around half of those are in Hawaii, he said, and were sold as solar-plus-storage installations backed with a power-purchase agreement sold to third-party investors. 

Residential sales push

Hawaii will also be the main focus for EnSync’s initial residential sales push.

The company is targeting property developers and homeowner associations looking to install aggregated solar-plus-storage systems as a way of providing non-grid electricity to tenants across estates with multiple homes.

Property developers “would basically sell the electricity for whatever they wanted,” said Hansen. “They may decide to pass savings on, or not.”

Alternatively, homeowner associations might purchase the electricity as part of a power-purchase agreement, typically lasting 20 years, with the solar-plus-storage system ownership going to a third-party investor.

Hansen said the system’s peer-to-peer energy exchange platform was particularly suited to multiple home developments because it would allow for cost-effective renewable energy supplies to smaller households. 

Two-bedroom homes

For two-bedroom homes, “without our product and without peer-to-peer you can’t get the economics to work,” he said.

Even PV on its own does not really make economic sense in small homes, he noted.

But using peer-to-peer technology across a large estate, “we can aggregate all those inefficiencies up to the property level and essentially deliver a very efficient system across the property back to even two-bedroom units,” he said.

“It’s a massive target we can go out and address. We’re just starting in Hawaii because it’s easiest.”

EnSync has sealed around $5.5m in orders so far in 2018 and expects to add a further $15m purely through residential sales before the end of the year.

This is likely to be purely through property development and homeowner association sales, Hansen said.

Shipping within four months

EnSync expects to start shipping within the next four months and could rapidly scale production to thousands of units a year, said Hansen.

Within a couple of years, residential system sales could equal up to three quarters of what EnSync currently makes from C&I units, he said.

“By about 2021, 2022, the residential market will be bigger than the commercial systems market,” he said. “Our performance should mirror the market.”

Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based EnSync has made headlines in the past over longstanding litigation with Solar Power Inc (SPI), a Chinese company that in 2015 signed a contract to buy $80m of EnSync’s flow batteries.

SPI subsequently backed out of the deal, which included an option to buy a controlling stake in EnSync.

This week Reuters reportedthat EnSync had filed a lawsuit against SPI, seeking a declaratory judgement releasing the company from its obligations under the 2015 deal.

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