Sonnen battery storage enters the Oz market, company announces peer-to-peer trading


A Sonnen Battery Storage Unit. Photo: sonnen GmbH

The surge of popularity of solar and storage in Oz has triggered a battery storage invasion as companies are keen to test our country as an ideal market. The most recent of these announcements comes from German clean energy company Sonnen

Sonnen chief marketing officer Philipp Schroder emphasised the affordability of the solar and storage package which includes not just the battery and panels but also the inverter, an energy manager and technology to measure and communicate consumption.

“Australians are excited about the opportunities for self-consumption and energy storage right now,” he was reported as saying by RenewEconomy. “With our SonnenBatterie we can offer them a real choice of becoming independent and using clean power for an affordable price.”

Intriguing enough, however the announcement also included a section that will send shivers down the collective spine of the fossil fuel lobby. This was the German company’s opinion that it was looking to introduce Sonnen battery storage as the anchor of a peer-to-peer trading network in the country in the not-too-distant future. If successful, it will put further pressure on fossil fuel utilities as their mismanagement and ever-increasing prices drive more people to look for an affordable clean energy alternative.

Peer-to-peer trading is based on community sharing of solar energy. This occurs where people without renewable energy can access it from those in their neighbourhood who have solar energy through a microgrid. The situation is a winner for both parties with those without solar panels able to access renewable energy at a reasonable price and those with able to sell their excess energy at more than they now receive by feeding back into the grid.

Sonnen has already rolled out the scheme in its native Germany and trailblazing schemes exist in The Netherlands and the United States.

There are also viable solar and storage schemes in Australia. Clean energy analyst Giles Parkinson also talks glowingly of the future of microgrids in Australia in a 2015 article.

“The creation of micro-grids is seen by many leading players as an obvious solution to Australia’s soaring electricity costs, where the grid has to cover huge areas, at the cost of massive cross-subsidies that support it,” he said.

Microgrids make sense in a country as vast as ours as it reduces the need for poles and wires across long distances to small towns and remote communities. The idea of decentralising the grid is being taken seriously in a number of states such as Queensland and W.A. where distance is a major factor in delivering power to small, remote communities.

So will a peer-to-peer solar trading scheme get off the ground as Sonnen expects? Will Sonnen battery storage and solar panels prove to be the catalyst for a series of microgrids and community clean energy? Certainly the company thinks so. What do you think? A viable future for microgrids? Or just a pipe dream?


  1. Very encouraging article. I just can’t get over the time it has taken solar businesses to get their act together on integrated solar generation and storage. It is as though they were all waiting for someone else to start the ball rolling.
    Not a very innovative solution. But the future is looking brighter with some competition on “complete” systems.

    • Thanks Colin. Good point you make about the time taken for solar to get its act together.

      • I share the lack of enthusiasm of many who have added up the real cost of PV Solar power. Without massive taxpayer subsidies, the idea is pretty much untenable. Unless they want to charge you a vast amount of money to deliver power to your property, that is.

  2. The big end of town will not like the idea of Micro Grids or community sharing, where is the profit in it for them and we all know they have both state and federal pollies in their pockets. I wish them well and I would be the first to sign on for such a scheme but it may be an uphill battle.

  3. “The creation of micro-grids is seen by many leading players as an obvious solution to Australia’s soaring electricity costs, where the grid has to cover huge areas, at the cost of massive cross-subsidies that support it,” he said.”

    Romantic, but most Australians live in densely populated cities.
    ‘obvious’, ‘soaring’ ‘huge’ ‘massive’. Hyperbolic, as is the remainder of the article, where promises hand-waving replace detailed engineering and cost analysis.

    From another supportive article
    “The economics of reducing peak demand in order to save capital expenditures on new power plants are already compelling enough to have prompted several utilities to explore battery installations. In that context, partnerships make sense because they allow for multiple uses for a single battery, Mandel said. Consolidated Edison, for example, is exploring behind-the-meter batteries through its Clean Virtual Power Plant project, and Vermont utility Green Mountain Power has teamed up with Tesla to offer its Powerwall battery.”

    Green Mountain Power are one of the ‘leading players’ offering the Powerwall, which does not meet its promises. What does that say about Green Mountain’s promises?

    Like so many others, Sonnen are offering promises that have only their word in support, or by proxy, the promises made by others.
    Sounds like the same stories that led to houshold storage of propane gas and heating oil boom. A difference is that current technology now allows electricity to be the target.

  4. I’m about to step into Reposit Power’s pilot, using my Powerwall as the test hamster.

    The goal is slightly different, in that I’ll be exporting battery power only during peak events, for a fairly hefty tariff compared to my regular feed in.

    If the micro grid idea is to progress past that stage, it will likely reduce that GridCredits value back to something closer to market cost, but will still have appeal over simple solar export of 8 cents a piece.

    Rich’s point about rural communities is entirely valid. As someone who grew up on a farm, with overhead power lines running kilometres between houses, sharing power locally could be a great solution. Throw in some storage and you’re set like a jelly.

    Obviously, if you’re really remote, off grid is probably a superior solution, but the capital expenditure on an individual household for smaller townships would be prohibitive.

    One of the concerns I have over long term export of battery power on peak demand, is effect on my cycle life, and therefore warranty.

    • Great comments thanks Nick. All the best with the pilot. Can you keep us posted about how you go please? We’d love to do an article on your experience.

    • Erik Christiansen says

      In my upcoming tree-change, back to the farm, I have trouble seeing the economics of funding a 1 km powerline to the only neighbour in sight. (One can be economically remote before being physically very remote, if the grid isn’t there.) I remember the already painful cost of fully funding above-ground powerlines a mere two poles to my place here in the Dandenongs. OK, maybe we’re unusual in never having been connected to the grid out there. So battery expenditure will be the minimum for what I need.

      Rather than a solar water heater, which can leak, I’m looking at utilising some of the PV capacity to run a heat pump water heater (Finn, have you collected any king of overview?) E.g. the “Bolt-On” provides around 3.6 kW of water heating with 1 kW of electrical input.I’ll still use wood heater boost in winter, since that’s running anyway.I’d rather run wires than too much plumbing in and on the roof. (Have asked what the heat pump costs. Hope it’s reasonable. The thing’s only a reverse-cycle aircon with a water coil.)

      • Ray Havill says

        How did the heat pump water heater work out for you?
        I have often thought this should be the simplest and best solar driven water heating method but don’t know anyone who has experienced it.
        I would really appreciate any experience or other information relating to this.

        • I put a Quantum 300 litre solar heatpump hot water unit on my home a few years ago. Got tired of replacing 45kg lpg cylinders every month or two. It reduced my hot water costs by about 75%. If I was on natural gas, it would have reduced costs by about 50% . Best way to go for hot water for sure. A place where I installed hydronic (gas fired) ducted heating about thirty years ago contacted me last week about recommendations for replacement of the old Southern Heating boiler. I recommended a separate Quantum domestic hot water unit, and a two-way heat pump boiler which could switch between cold water and hot water. Talk to any hydronic specialist about it, but definitely go for heatpump.

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