Melbourne shared solar start-up scales up with manufacturing deal

Melbourne-based start-up Allume Energy has inked a deal to boost the manufacture of its behind-the-meter solar sharing technology that promises to unlock the benefits of cheap PV generation for apartment dwellers.

The deal, with tech “commercialisation” specialist Planet Innovation, will see 32 of Allume’s SolShare units manufactured each month from October to December, with plans to scale production again in the new year to meet customer demand.

As reported on One Step Off The Grid, Allume has been gradually rolling out its potentially game-changing solar sharing solution, starting with an inner Melbourne project dividing the power generated by a 7.2kW PV system between five apartments, a baker, a hair salon, and an occupational therapist.

This was followed by another, larger Melbourne project – this time backed by the state government – to install shared solar and battery storage systems in three multi-tenanted buildings.

That project – a collaboration between retailer Ovida, Allume, distribution company Jemena, RMIT and the Moreland Energy Foundation – was to install solar PV and battery systems in three new-build multi-tenanted commercial and residential buildings.

Since then, Australian real estate group Mirvac has become Allume’s biggest investor and is installing the system in its new apartment complexes. The company also has deals with several solar providers around Australia, with units installed in Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

In a statement this month, PI said engineers from both companies had worked together over a series of builds to improve the design and aesthetics of Allume’s SolShare unit, and establish the procurement and quality processes needed to manufacture at scale.

Allume CEO Cameron Knox said his company had chosen PI for its flexibility and willingness to work collaboratively to convert Allume’s prototype into manufacture-ready device.

“We needed a partner that could be flexible, but also had the capability to scale, and could help us make that transition from where we were, to where we are now, and Planet Innovation was really the only one that worked,” Knox said.

“Being able to come to PI with an early stage prototype and work with the team to improve that, and iterate that, and come away with a product that’s not just functional, but easy to assemble, easy to install and looks good as well.”

Allume CTO Kristy Battista said PI had also provided “invaluable” advice around the strategic aspects of manufacturing.

“PI helped us consider the whole logistics of the production process; questions like: ‘When do you move to a low-cost region?’, ‘If we’re shipping product to the US and Australia, do you have two different facilities?’, ‘Where do you warehouse your product?’,” Battista said.

“That extra strategic guidance on top of the build support was really important to us as a start-up,” she said.

PI product manager Andrew Hornby said his company’s focus had been on delivering a solution with improved efficiency and a shorter time to market.

“Having technical experts from design and manufacturing co-located at PI has been important to ensure a smooth design transfer and a straightforward transition to scaled up manufacturing,” he said.

“We’re now at a stage where we are focused on delivering significant production volumes and are looking forward to seeing those units generating tangible benefits for Allume customers.”

The deal comes as Allume makes inroads in the US market, partnering with the nation’s biggest residential solar company, Sunrun.

“We’re currently undergoing technical and reliability testing with Sunrun in the US, and we’ll be sending an increasing number of units to the US for deployment over the next 12 months, which is really exciting,” Knox said.

“We have also been accepted into the Elemental Excelerator’s Equity & Access Track. This will kickstart our launch into California, focusing the SolShare’s deployment in low income areas, where the savings from solar are most impactful.”

“We’ll be in two continents and across all the Australian states pretty soon. We’ve got no shortage of orders and customers at the moment, which is great.”

Allume will be showcasing the SolShare at the All-Energy Conference in Melbourne on 23-24 October, where they will be looking to expand their partnership network.

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