By Jason Deign
US system developer Sunverge Energy last week beefed up its Australian operations amid growing signs of a residential energy storage market boom Down Under.
The company unveiled a tie-up with Queensland utility Ergon Energy to pilot 33 solar-plus-storage systems in conjunction with SunPower, the PV panel manufacturer that Sunverge already has a partnership deal with in the US.
“This is Ergon Energy’s first residential solar and storage project to be piloted in a limited release commercial offer,” said Sunverge in a press release.
The trial, which should be up and running before the end of the year, will cover Ergon customers in Toowoomba, Townsville and Cannonvale and is supported by AUD$400,000 from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
It is believed Sunverge’s Solar Integration System products will be tied to Panasonic batteries for the Ergon pilot. Sunverge clearly sees the trial as the tip of a potentially large iceberg.
Australia and New Zealand markets
It has picked Martin Symes, former sales director for energy, utilities and chemicals at Capgemini, to head a team based out of new offices in Fortitude Valley, Queensland, focusing on the Australia and New Zealand markets.
“The new office represents a further commitment by Sunverge to be a major contributor to the continuing rapid adoption of residential solar and other renewable energy sources across Australasia,” said the company last week.
Meanwhile other players are eying the Australian market with interest as energy storage takes off across the country.
As previously reported in Energy Storage Report, the residential battery market in particular is growing rapidly on the back of 20% household solar penetration and high grid power prices.
AGL Energy has developed a $9,990 product, the PowerLegato, specifically for the Australian market. LG Chem is selling a 6.4kWh system for $6,898.
Residential trend “simply unstoppable”
Kobad Bhavnagri, head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Australia, has predicted 33GWh of battery storage and 37GW of solar PV across the country by 2040, calling the residential trend “simply unstoppable.”
The analyst believes PV and batteries are already cheaper than household grid supplies in Queensland.
This price differential should increase if ARENA predictions of a 60% drop in battery costs by 2020 comes good, which may explain why utilities are actively courting the residential energy storage market.
Alongside Ergon, Red Energy and ActewAGL have both recently announced residential energy storage trials, all featuring Panasonic batteries.
And interest in Australia’s growing market potential has led leading conference organiser the Energy Storage World Forum to move its Conference and Exhibition to Sydney this September.
The price of battery technologies
Michael Anthony, chief executive at 360Storage, said: “The price of lithium-based battery technologies is dropping significantly and this is driving the excitement in the applications of energy storage in the Australian market.
“For 360Storage we are seeing the residential sector grow most quickly, by approximately 10% each month.
“It is early days, however we notice that as we train our dealers and they learn to apply the sales and sizing tools we have developed they are dramatically increasing their sales conversions.”
The grid-scale market for energy storage has arguably been affected by the arrival of an anti-renewable administration in 2013, although even here there is still significant progress.
This week, for example, it emerged that Entura, a division of Hydro Tasmania, was carrying out a feasibility study for a 330MW pumped hydro storage project in northern Queensland.
Leading the way in development
And Australian companies are among those being tipped to lead the way in the development of next-generation grid-scale battery technologies.
One much-admired example is Sydney-based Ecoult, a spinoff from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that is touting a hybrid ultracapacitor and lead-acid battery technology.
“This is because of the intrinsically low price of lead and the quality of the development team and shareholders. It has a narrow focus on market development at a pace that suits its rather conservative and pragmatic owners.”
- Find out more about the current state of the Australian energy storage market at the Energy Storage World Forum Conference and Exhibition in Sydney, from September 14 to 18.