Jamie Allen, LG Chem

There’s a certain sense of indignity amongst solar PV owners who have seen feed-in tariffs slashed while the energy they pump into the grid gets on-sold at market rates by the retailers., according to LG Chem’s business manager, Australia and Pacific James Allen.

According to LG Chem’s business manager, Australia and Pacific James Allen, this has seen a four-fold growth in business for LG Chem over the past year and it’s has been a strong driver of take up for the company’s recently launched commercial partnership with inverter and smart energy systems provider SMA Group.

The home energy storage solution comprises SMA’s Sunny Boy Storage 2.5 battery inverter and LG Chem’s RESU10H 9.8 kWh storage unit. Over 100 of the packages were installed in the first month following the Australian launch at the end of 2016, Allen says.

“A lot of the people taking it up were coming off feed-in tariffs where they were getting 60 to 70 cents a kilowatt hour – so often getting credits instead of bills – and now they are getting bills.”

Allen says a quarter of people with solar PV who are currently on feed-in tariffs are looking at storage solutions.

A lot of the buyers are people “with cash in hand”; others are adding the cost of the system on top of their mortgage. There are also solar finance providers out there, but not many customers have been using that option, he says.

The majority of buyers have been aged between their mid-40s and 65.

“For a lot of the people doing it right now, this is a bit of small change to them,” global product manager for SMA Scott Partlin says.

Some of the energy retailers are also on-selling the package on the basis of adding the cost in increments to bills under a five-year agreement.

The combination of storage and a PV-agnostic AC-coupled inverter can reduce household energy bills by about 80 per cent.

Scott Partlin, SMA

The system also has an online portal developed by SMA – Sunny Place – which gives an overview of home energy use to help owners maximise their savings.

An optional add-on – Sunny Home Manager – can be integrated into a comprehensive energy management system, if needed.

Allen says that for a typical family home with four residents using around 18 to 20 kilowatt-hours a day, the majority of electricity needs can be met with a 5 kWh to 6 kWh solar PV system plus between 8 kWh and 10 kWh of storage. The cost of such a package averages about $15,000, depending on the installer.

For those with existing PV, the cost of adding the combined battery, inverter and energy management platform is between $10,000 to $12,000 installed, again depending on the installer.

Partlin says the inverter gets information from the battery, which then lets the home owner know when the battery is charging, when it is discharging to the home or when the PV system is sending energy to the grid because the battery is at capacity.

The optional SMA platform gives a higher level of detail, including exact data on generation and consumption. Partlin says the advantage of this level of information is that owners can learn to use the PV and storage more effectively and efficiently, for example by turning on loads instead of exporting to the grid.

The system is cloud-based so the data can be accessed from anywhere.

The appetite in the market has seen both companies in a strong growth phase.

Allen says LG Chem is growing its team in Australia, and will soon be hiring more staff.

“We have seen four-fold growth [in business] since last year,” he says.

Partlin says SMA has also experienced a strong past 12 months, with an uplift in the number of installers working with the company, and the expansion of the company’s service infrastructure.

This trajectory is set to continue, with the partnership next aiming to expand its focus onto utility-scale storage solutions using the SMA Sunny Central Storage Inverter.