World’s first “plug-in” home battery set to be tested in Australia

Image: Orison

A potentially game-changing plug-and-play home battery storage solution is set to be tested on the Australian market – potentially within weeks – after the US company behind the technology successfully closed out an $US8.5 million seed round with the backing of Origin Energy.

The Wyoming-based company, called Orison, has been working since 2013 on transforming home energy storage from a relatively high maintenance piece of electricity infrastructure into a regular, household electrical appliance that can be purchased directly and plugged in, like any other.

And they claim to have come up with just that: a compact home battery whose components can be shipped directly to a household, easily assembled, and then plugged into the wall and switched on. No electricians, utility approvals, or permits required – subject to Australian regulators, of course.

Orison said this week that, after several years in development, the home battery system was in the final stages of certification testing to be approved as the first and only energy storage appliance that can be fully installed by the consumer.

Once installed, the battery ($US2,200 for 1.8 kilowatts/2.2 kilowatt-hours) and a connected home energy monitor ($US300) coordinate charge and discharge around rooftop solar production and electricity rates. In the case of an outage, the battery can not island the home, but can still power devices that are plugged into it.

“Orison’s consumer-scale modular batteries are designed to make energy storage accessible and affordable to all energy customers, including renters in apartments and multi-family dwellings, while empowering customers, improving grid resilience and accelerating a smarter energy future,” a statement said.

Where Australia comes into the equation is through major gen-tailer Origin Energy, which has been a keen backer of Orison for several years, now, through Origin’s Free Electrons energy start-up accelerator program.

“Origin’s strategy of identifying, investing in and partnering with clean technology companies is not only transformative in getting us closer to a renewable grid but also leads the way for utilities to empower their customers with local services that best support each individual’s needs,” said Eric Clifton, founder and CEO of Orison this week.

“We truly consider Origin an active and integral part of our team.”

While Orison uses its seed funds to accelerate product development, Origin plans to test and potentially deploy the energy storage solution later this year in the Australian market, taking on big-name players Tesla and Sonnen in the dynamic emerging home battery market.

Tony Lucas, the executive general manager of Origin’s Future Energy department, says he expects the benefits of the technology to flow both ways, helping solar customers to make the most of their investment, and providing the gen-tailer with a network of batteries it can use to dial down demand during peak hours.

“While an obvious benefit is the ability to provide back-up power during blackouts, where we are seeing the greatest potential of Orison for customers in a smart energy world would be the ability to shift their load and avoid grid consumption during peak times,” said Lucas.

“Origin looks forward to working with Orison to further develop home energy storage solutions to empower customers to manage energy use in a smarter and more efficient way.”

On the potential down-side, as Greentech Media points out here, Orison’s micro-storage appliance model limits the sort of things the batteries can do; including, as Clifton himself points out, export power beyond the utility meter.

Their ease of use – and zero cost of installation – is also traded off against a less favourable price per kilowatt-hour than, say, a Tesla Powerwall. On the other hand, Orison’s much lower entry-level price point could attract consumers that have so far resisted getting solar storage due to cost.

On the plus-side, the batteries could be able to circumvent Australia’s newly introduced and – to many in the industry – unnecessarily restrictive battery installation standards.

And, as Clifton told Greentech Media, Australia’s market is a good fit to trial the technology, due to its sizeable collection of smaller-sized rooftop solar systems averaging at around 2kW – although currently the average size of new systems has jumped to more than 7kW.

“That’s much smaller than the average in the U.S. and a much better fit for Orison’s storage capacity,” he said.

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