The first of the Australian households to take up the offer of “free energy” from German battery storage maker Sonnen, are having their systems installed, leaving them completely free from electricity costs for two years and paving the way for Sonnen to become a player in the national energy market.
Sonnen – whose original SonneFlat deal, launched in July, promised households who bought one of their home battery systems would pay nothing for energy but a monthly fee of between $30-$50 – upgraded that deal in September, waiving the monthly fee and offering no cost at all for 24 months for the first 2000 customers to buy batteries.
Chris Parratt, the head of Sonnen Australia, says that since then, the company has experienced two months of “ridiculous sales,” which have doubled in the last month, as solar households scramble to take up the offer of battery storage at no cost for two years.
“Why wouldn’t you take the extra savings?” Parratt told One Step Off The Grid on Monday. “For a standard small household system, it could mean another $400 in electricity savings – on top of the savings that are already there.”
One of the first Australian households to have their Sonnen battery system installed under the new deal has been the Ridey family, from North Ryde in New South Wales.
According to installer Natural Solar, the family had put a 3kW solar PV system on their five-bedroom home more than six years ago, but were still paying an average power bill of $566 per quarter.
After adding more another 4.5kW of solar panels, and a 10kWh sonnenBatterie Eco 8 – the battery was fully installed for $14,000 – they are now expected to save more than $2,000 a year on electricity costs.
As Natural Solar CEO Chris Williams has noted, one of the more interesting aspects to the SonnenFlat deal is that it also works to shut traditional electricity retailers out of the loop.
“More and more we are seeing consumers searching for ways to take the power back from energy retailers,” Williams said in comments on Monday.
“For the 1.6 million Australian homeowners who already have solar installed on their home, simply adding a sonnenBatterie may allow them to be eligible for free electricity where they don’t pay a cent for their bills and have sonnen as their electricity retailer.
“Considering those with sonnenFlat don’t pay a network fee or meter fee, bill reductions of 100 per cent are not only a reality, they are an expectation,” he said.
Williams said that Mark Ridey, who was a software engineer, had come to the company wanting to “future proof” his home, to which he soon hopes to add an electric vehicle. The system, as it is installed, offers the potential to add more solar and more storage capacity – up to 16kWh will fit in the sonnen battery cabinet he already has.
For Sonnen, this is not just about empowering customers and capturing market share, but about becoming a player in the national electricity market, using its network of behind the meter battery storage as a “virtual power plant” to provide valuable grid-balancing services.
As Parratt told One Step in September, it would take just 500 installations in any one state to build up enough capacity to draw on to play in the frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) market – and the company one of many pushing AEMO to amend the rules to allow that to happen.
Sonnen has 30,000 installations in Germany and is already a major player in that country’s FCAS market.
In Australia, however, it is just getting started. Parratt says the company has so far installed around 850 units battery units nation-wide, with another 1,000 on order. New installations were happening at a rate of about 5 a day, Parratt said.