US energy technology company Enphase has launched its battery storage and home energy solution product in Australia, and signed a battery storage trial agreement with the South Australian grid operator.
The California-based Enphase – like Tesla – chose Australia for the global launch of its battery storage product because it says Australia right now is the hottest market in the world.
“There is a fervour (for battery storage) like nowhere else in the world,” said Greg Wolfson, the director of storage products at Enphase. “And that extends from consumers all along the chain to networks.”
Australia has more than 1.4 million solar households and penetration rates in some networks is reaching 28 per cent. Its first trial with a network in Australia will be with South Australia Power Networks, and it has also announced a trial with New Zealand retailer Genenis.
Enphase is taking a completely different tack to other battery storage developers. It is making no claim to doing grid back-up, or off-grid applications (although it may do in the future), and says its products are deliberately designed to tie in with the grid, and make use of existing infrastructure.
The Enphase battery is lithium-ion phosphate, and comes in modules of just 1.2kWh. These can be scaled up to the consumer’s needs, although Wolfson says the sweet spot of value of storage to consumers will be from 3.5kWh to 5kWh.
That’s because right now, at least in Australia, consumers can only really gain two levels of value – from self consuming their own solar PV output to avoid being penalized by cheap export tariffs, and in some areas arbitraging with time of use tariffs.
At a price of around $1,150 a kWh (to their direct customers, who are installers), Wolfson estimates that the combination of solar and storage will be cheaper than grid prices, but not yet offer quick paybacks. (This confirms separate analysis from the likes of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, UBS and Morgan Stanley).
However, Wolfson says that with battery storage prices likely to fall 10—15 per cent a year over the next five years, that will change quickly. And when the other “value” options of storage, including “peak shaving” and grid services such as demand response and voltage frequency are introduced, then battery storage will be a compelling prospect.
Enphase has made its mark through its main product, which are micro inverters, which allow varying outputs and monitoring from and of separate panels. So if one panel is shaded, it doesn’t affect the others in the array. It now claims a near 10 per cent of the overall Australian inverter market, from zero at the start of 2014.
Its smart software and energy management systems allow that solar output to be aggregated and integrated into the grid, In Hawaii, where the local network operator had stopped new solar additions due to grid congestion, and planned nearly $100 million in upgrades, Enphase was able to use its technology to solve the frequency and voltage issues and allow for more solar to be installed. Hawaii is now aiming for 100 per cent renewable energy, mostly solar.
Enphase says that the electricity grids we have today – despite being one of most complex structures that has been created – are not going to look the same in next five years as it has in previous 50 to 100 years. And they will continue to change dramatically.
Another unique feature of the Enphase battery storage product will be its ability to do two full charge cycles of capacity. Enphase says this can be done for 10 years and the storage will still have 80 per cent capacity.
Wolfson says this will add value to the product because it will be able to charge (from the grid) in early morning (say 4am) at times of low prices and then allow the consumer to offset their grid consumption in the morning peak.
It will then do that again in the afternoon, charging up from the excess solar output to store capacity for use in the evening peak.
Wolfson expects battery storage to enable consumers to save an extra 20-30 per cent off their typical power bill, over and above the savings they make from their solar panels. This, though, will depend on the size of the solar pv array, solar irradiance, the energy load profile for residence, and size of storage system.
The 1.2kwh battery storage unit weighs less than 25 kilos, fits on wall plate, and is “plug and play”, meaning it is easy to install.
The Enphase Home Energy Solution will be available to solar installers through distributors such AC Solar Warehouse, Australian Microinverters, One Stop Warehouse, RFI, Solar + Solutions and SunEdison, as well as Solar Partners NZ and YHI in New Zealand. The battery storage product will probably not be available until April to June next year.