Australian households looking to install rooftop solar will soon be able to do so through their favourite flat-packing, Swedish furniture and homeware giant – Ikea – with the launch of a new “turnkey” (no allen key required) product this year.
Ikea Australia said on Tuesday that it would kick off a trial of its complete home solar offering – called Solstrale – around the country in April, starting with employees of the company.
The idea is for Ikea staff to test out the offering, provide feedback, and ensure any bugs are ironed out by the time the product is launched to consumers.
The Solstrale package includes a custom rooftop solar design, full installation (by IKEA’s partners, not the homeowner), PV panels, inverters and mounting systems – with an option to add battery storage if so desired.
Ikea said pricing in Australia would vary from region to region – depending on any local and state government incentives and rebates – and depend on the size of system purchased.
At this stage, its “carefully selected” local partner in Australia has been named as SolarGain, which offers a range of “high end” panels from Jinko, Longi, LG, SunPower and Q Cells. It also offers a range of inverters, including from Sungrow, Fronius, Growatt and SolarEdge. (Batteries offered are Tesla Powerwall 2, LG Chem RESU, Enphase, and iStore.)
The launch of Solstrale in Australia marks the product’s first foray outside of Europe, where it has been sold on a variety of key solar markets including Germany and Italy. Ultimately, the company hopes to expand Solstrale sales to all of its markets by 2025.
“We want to help out customers to produce their own renewable energy at home which is good both for the climate and the wallet,” Ikea said in May last year.
The company flagged selling solar panels “at cost” in Australia back in February 2018, as One Step Off The Grid reported at the time, but received a mixed response from the local industry, inlcuding concern that the offer would confuse consumers and further squeeze the already slim profit margins of Australian installers.
Since that time, it seems to have learned some valuable lessons from its experiences across its various European markets, such as in Germany where it fell foul of that nation’s consumer watch-dog over its partnership with Solarcentury.
According to Ikea Australia retail manager and chief sustainability officer, Jan Gardberg, the move to solar is ideally timed for the current conditions in Australia.
“We know the unlocked potential that awaits with democratising sustainable solutions through renewable energy,” he said. “Our climate is perfectly suited for Australia to be a leading market for the IKEA home solar offering.
“As a business we see it as our responsibility to enable positive change in society. We are living on one planet which is counting on everyone to make a difference.”
Whether Ikea will stick with SolarGain exclusively, or sign up other partners remains to be seen. In light of the coronavirus-linked shortages of China-sourced panels that are being forecast, they might want to get more non-China brands in the mix, such as Germany’s REC.
Ikea’s global development leader home solar, Signe Antvorskov, told PV Magazine last year that the company tended to change its suppliers and EPC contractors depending on the local market.
“We have partnered with EPC companies in the markets we are offering solar in – the U.K., Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland and Belgium – to deliver a turnkey solution that can handle the complexity of installing and designing systems for our customers’ roofs,” Antvorskov said in an interview.
“In terms of equipment suppliers, we want to be technology agnostic. So we are constantly sweeping the market together with our partners on the best deals. We have different suppliers in different markets, and we constantly evaluate them.”
Those variables aside, Ikea does have a set of core requirements that don’t change, including that the panel suppliers must be Tier 1, and comply with the company’s “defined set of ways of working” in line with strict environmental, health and safety standards.
In the UK and in Germany, for example, Ikea sourced its panels from the UK headquartered manufacturer Solarcentury, and offered battery storage in those markets sourced from industry leaders LG Chem and SonnenBatterie.
We’ll keep you posted on any more details, including price and timing for the extension of the offer to consumers, as they become available.