Company Updates, Renewables, Solar, Storage

Sonnen and Natural Solar join forces in $90m, 10,000-battery distribution deal

German battery storage brand sonnen has teamed up with Australian battery and solar installer Natural Solar in a $90 million distribution deal to enter The Philippines and Malaysia.

The partners expect more than 10,000 combined PV and battery storage systems will be installed over the next two years.

Two different versions of the battery will be offered: the sonnenBatterie eco and the sonnenBatterie compact.

The US-manufactured and German-engineered sonnenBatterie eco is designed for self-consumption and offers full-scale back-up power up to 8kW with the island ability of the inverter.

The second offering, the 5kWh sonnenBatterie compact, is designed for combining a maximum amount of self-consumption with “a very attractive pricing”, the company says.

“The potential for the high-end sonnenBatterie as well as the new sonnenBatterie compact are huge,” says Natural Solar founder and CEO Chris Williams (pictured). “We aim to supply over 100,000 systems over the next five years and believe this has the potential to surpass the market size of Australia within the next 24 months.”

One million possibilities

Sonnen entered the Australian market in 2016. In mid-2017 sonnen and Natural Solar announced their partnership and introduced the sonnenFlat, that reduces electricity costs for households by charging a flat fee.

The partners are addressing a potential of over one million homes within the commercial and high-end residential home markets.

“Sonnen always aims to offer clean affordable energy for all, that is our mission,” says sonnen managing director and chief sales and marketing officer Philipp Schröder. “The [eco] product will beat most other storage systems in price and will be available in the market of The Philippines and Malaysia by the end of March 2018.”

Williams described the recent growth in solar in The Philippines and Malaysia as similar to the Australian market in 2009 to 2011.

“The market there is growing very, very strongly,” he says. “Given that The Philippines has one of the highest [grid-connected households] electricity rates in Asia, if not the highest, coupled with a very high uptake in solar we see this as a very logical transition towards a solar-and-battery solution as well.”

He says many grid-connected Filipino households are paying more than US20c/kWh. “It’s a very, very high electricity rate.”

Network growth

Natural Solar has 15 staff in The Philippines and aims to use local installers, with the likelihood it will need more as orders come in. “The network [of installers] will need to expand on the back of the expected growth,” he says.

Williams says the average solar system in The Philippines is priced for a payback period of between three and five years; with a battery, his estimate for payback is between six and eight years.

“Given that the lithium-ion-phosphate technology has a 10,000-cycle warranty, the system will pay itself off many times over during that period,” he says. “We definitely see this as a very strong market.”

The Philippines is a scattered archipelago with a hodgepodge of generation types. Some regions, he says, experience brownouts or blackouts on a daily basis. “It’s a situation where back-up power is going to be just as important [as installing a battery for the sake of lowering bills],” he says, anticipating some orders may be for households without solar.

Other than net feed-in tariffs he says there are no government subsidies for household clean energy generation or storage in the region.

Diesel generators are used in some areas and remote islands, he says, showing potential for micro-grids of large solar systems with large storage which would potentially create levels of energy autonomy about 80% or higher, coupled with existing generation.

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