The burgeoning market for home batteries in the Asia Pacific and the South Australian government subsidies through the home battery scheme have spurred investment in the sector by companies such as sonnen.
Less than a year ago the German residential solar battery maker sonnen opened an assembly and manufacturing facility at the site of the old Holden factory. Its workers include people who lost their jobs when the Holden plant at Elizabeth shut down in 2017.
Now 47 employees are working in Adelaide, with a total of 65 including some stationed in other parts of Australia. Twenty of these jobs are in production and logistics.
Started by two “well-connected” German entrepreneurs in 2010, the company now has operations across the world. It has manufacturing plants in Germany, North America and now Australia, which services both Australia and the Asian market.
The company was snapped up by the second largest oil and gas company in the world, Royal Dutch Shell, earlier this year. The acquisition was part of the oil and gas company’s bid to expand its role in the low carbon energy future.
According to sonnen managing director of Australia Nathan Dunn, the decision to set up a production facility in South Australia was driven by two factors: the burgeoning market for home batteries in the Asia Pacific; and the South Australian government subsidies through the home battery scheme, which was launched in October last year.
Dunn says the move brings money into the country and is providing much-needed jobs in renewables manufacturing. It’s also recently been awarded an Australian Made badge and recognition from the Office of the Industry Advocate as a manufacturer of South Australian products.
As more battery schemes are rolled out in other states, including NSW government’s program that is due to start this summer, Dunn says the company will be in a good position to provide installations for customers taking advantage of the subsidies.
Customers are still looking at a payback period of around six to eight years for battery and solar systems, provided the system is designed correctly with the right combination of battery storage and solar generation.
Ninety seven per cent of the company’s customers are residential, with some small scale businesses included as well.
The company also offers an interesting retail and solar hardware package. Customers that sign up must have a Sonnen battery and solar systems. Consumers get a consumption allowance and are charged a single monthly fee instead of a conventional electricity bill. As long as they stay under the prescribed amount of electricity per year, they pay nothing more than the monthly fee no matter if it comes from solar, the battery or the grid.
Dunn says that the German designed, Australian made batteries are a “premium device, but we remain competitive.”