Senec launches V3 battery in Australia, with solar inverter and an install twist

German battery maker Senec has launched its new integrated home energy storage solution on the Australian market with a couple of interesting selling points – including the ability to get around some of the tough new residential installation rules.

The V3 Hybrid lithium-ion battery was launched at the All-Energy Australia conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, promising solar households up to 90 per cent power self-sufficiency.

The key feature of the 4.5kWh/9kWh product is that it includes a hybrid inverter, which converts both the current flowing from the PV panels into the storage system and the current discharged from it.

“We are not a battery, we’re an intelligent, fully integrated storage system,” said Senec managing director Jaron Schächter at All-Energy.

“There is a PV inverter, battery inverter, back-up power, all included in that one case.”

This means that when an AC grid is offline or there is a power failure or blackout, the unit’s two-phase emergency power supply is still able to charge the battery with the PV panels, offering “a real emergency power supply,” Senec says.

The system also includes PV over-voltage protection safety as standard, three-tier remote monitoring (every five minutes), unlimited solar recharging cycles and a warranty twice as long as the industry standard, at 20 years.

But perhaps most interestingly, the V3 offers floor mounting rather than wall mounting, which could help it get around some of the more confounding rules that now govern residential installations in Australia.

As we have reported on One Step, the publication earlier this month of Standards Australia’s AS/NZ 5139 Electrical installations – Safety of battery systems for use with power conversion equipment has received a mixed response from industry.

Some of the biggest players in Australia’s nascent home battery market, including Tesla, Sonnen, and LG, have argued the new rules will make energy storage more expensive and less accessible to Australia’s millions of solar households.

Of particular concern, they say, are the requirements for extra fire proofing – compulsory for installations on any walls connected to habitable rooms – and complex spacing rules preventing installations next to any doors, windows, ceilings, stairs, or un-associated electric appliances.

For floor mounted Senec V3, however, “you can just move it the recommended 30cm away from the wall, and then you don’t have to fire-proof,” says Schächter.

“We’re happy about the rules,” he added, “because if you have a fully integrated system, there’s less that can go wrong on the installer side. Like just the wiring from the inverter to the storage is something that can go wrong.”

Schächter believes this simplified installation and design aggregation can deliver “instant savings” of around $4,000 per installation – which is a big claim, but if at all accurate would certainly sweeten the deal of installing battery storage with a new solar system.

That said, the new battery standard does still require the V3 to be in a non-habitable room – such as a laundry or garage.

And this is certainly different to Europe, where Schächter says Senec has 30,000 systems “live and running” and all indoors.

“And we’ve never had a safety issue.”

Senec is also interesting in that it is 100 per cent owned by German-based EnBW, which claims to be one of biggest “gen-tailers” in the world, thus ensuring that the hybrid battery systems are grid compatible, or VPP ready, too.

“Our VPP readiness is part of why we were selected to do groundbreaking things with Horizon Power in Onslow,” Shächter told One Step.

As reported here in March, Senec was tapped by the Western Australia network operator to supply smart battery systems for its leading-edge microgrid project that aims to run the coastal Pilbara town of Onslow on at least 50 per cent renewables – and likely up to 70 per cent.

“Each of SENEC’s batteries will be integrated with Horizon Power’s Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS), the centralised control system that will ‘orchestrate’ DER at times when intelligent control is required,” Senec said of the project.

On the price of its new battery system, Schächter says it will be left up to Senec’s partners to set the Australian retail price on the V3, but notes that the unit is “basically on a level with a Tesla, but it’s got a PV inverter in it.”

So what are Senec’s hopes in a battery market that has so far proved a tough nut to crack?

“Australia is an interesting market because… you still have only 4-5 per cent of new installations being solar and storage and it’s creating all sorts of problems [for the grid],” Schächter told One Step.

“In Germany we are now up to 80 per cent of new installations are with storage.

“We really hope that we can change that part of the [Australian] dynamic.

Schächter says he believes one of the key roadblacks to home battery storage uptake in Australia has been the design of national SRES or small-scale renewable energy scheme.

“The way the STC [program] has been constructed …has meant that the customer has not been led to understand the whole value of solar.

On top of that, he says the retailer-installer part of the market equation in Australia is “too fragmented,” with major disconnects between the sales person and the “man in the van.”

“So there can be a customer that is convinced that he wants storage, and your retailer will tell you ‘no, wait another three or four years.’

“But if you look at cost savings, those three or four years will already pay off by themselves.”

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