By Jason Deign
LG Chem, the South Korean battery behemoth, has confirmed it has now achieved global energy storage system sales equalling 2.6GWh.
The figure includes systems already installed and “firm orders” due for installation between now and 2020, said Peter Gibson, sales director at LG Chem Power, the chemical company’s American storage operation.
The figure “is expected to grow quite fast” over the next couple of years, he said.
For comparison, battery storage darling Tesla is thought to have installed 174MWh, or around a fifteenth of LG Chem’s volume, from the start of 2016 until now, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) figures.
In its latest earnings call, Tesla confirmed 60MWh of storage sales in the first quarter of this year, more than a third of the total volume tracked by BNEF.
It would take Tesla a decade to reach LG Chem
If it continues to sell at a similar rate in future, it would take Tesla a decade to reach the volume claimed by LG Chem.
Naturally, Tesla’s figures do not take account of firm orders for the coming three years, and it is unclear if the BNEF data includes residential storage. Even so, it seems Tesla might have a hard time catching up with LG Chem any time soon.
And LG Chem’s growth in North America is expected to get a boost from its launch of a residential battery system last month. The battery range comes in AC- and DC-coupled flavours, with capacities up to 9.8kWh.
Two voltage options are available, pre-matched with compatible inverters and suitable for both indoor and outdoor installation.
A low-voltage (48V) product comes with 3.3, 6.5 and 9.8kWh capacities, and a high-voltage (400V) variant has a capacity of 7 and 9.8kWh.
Compatible with SolarEdge inverters
The 400V, 9.8kWh product, dubbed RESU10H, seems destined for solar-plus-storage installations as it is compatible with SolarEdge’s StorEdge DC-coupled single inverter for PV and batteries.
Exact pricing for the product would depend on the channel partner, but is expected to be in the range of USD$3,800 to $5,000, not including installation.
In a press note, LG Chem said additional inverter options will become available later in 2017, “to provide homeowners with a range of pre-tested solutions from the industry’s leading suppliers.”
The batteries are being sold through “a number of leading solar/storage providers,” LG Chem said, the most notable of which is Sunrun.
“LG Chem’s entry into the North American residential battery market is based on much planning, product development and system testing,” said Gibson in press materials.
Taking its time to enter the US residential market
Indeed, it could be argued that LG Chem has taken its time in entering the already cluttered US residential storage market.
Gibson said the delay was partly down to the company’s desire to make a product specific to the market, which incorporated the latest developments in lithium-ion battery technology, and then push it through UL testing.
“It was pretty evident that the market was looking for systems that were larger than we were selling in Europe and Asia,” he said.
At the same time, it is likely the company was in no hurry to target America, where residential sales are only now beginning to take off, at a time when there was much more action in other parts of the globe.
In fact, worldwide LG Chem has already supplied around 40,000 residential units, Gibson said, with most sales being to Europe and Asia.
Systems originally designed for Europe
Many of these have been 2 and 5kWh systems that were originally designed for Europe, although today’s LG Chem batteries for global markets are somewhat bigger: from 3kWh to 10kWh, Gibson said.
Although LG Chem has not sold own-brand residential batteries in North America before, it had previously provided the battery for a storage-plus-inverter package commercialised by Eguana Technologies.
The partnership with Eguana was expanded in January and still stands in the wake of LG Chem’s residential market launch, Gibson confirmed.
Noting that LG Chem still sees most of its sales in the utility-scale and commercial and industrial customer segments, Gibson would not be drawn on likely sales volumes in the residential market.
“The general goal that we have, based on experience in all markets, is to secure around 30% of the market,” he commented.
The forecast is based partly on the product’s pricing but to a large extent on LG’s reputation as a maker of quality consumer goods, and one that will be around in future to honour its warranties.
Nevertheless, “it’s going to take some time to ramp up,” said Gibson. “We’ve got roughly a thousand units sold already. I would say to achieve that market share, realistically it’s probably going to take a couple of years.”
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