By Darryn Van Hout, founder and editor of Australian Solar Quotes
It looks like Christmas has come early for Australian solar customers following Tesla’s announcement that its Powerwall battery storage system will be available in Australia before Christmas this year.
This past week, the electric vehicle giant announced a number of Australian solar installers that will be distributing the Powerwall. These companies include energy retail giant Origin Energy as well as Simply Energy, Natural Solar, and CSR Solar, to name a few.
Australia is one of two countries outside of the US to be supplied with the revolutionary Powerwall systems, with Tesla’s interest due to Australia’s high per capita penetration of rooftop solar technology (highest in the world).
Natural Solar managing director Chris Williams said a partnership with Tesla has been developing for some time. Williams added that Tesla’s interest in the Sydney-based company is thanks to Natural Solar’s business model, which specifically caters to storage, and the Powerwall in particular.
Williams said Natural Solar will be offering a full solution of 20 x 250 watt solar panels, an inverter, and Powerwall installed for about $15,000. Adding a Powerwall to an existing solar installation would cost about $9,500. A Powerwall and inverter without installation would cost about $1000 to $1200 less.
On the incredible hype surrounding solar storage technology and the release of the Tesla Powerwall, Williams said that he sees this as an opportunity “to educate the public on this ground-breaking technology.”
Australia A Key Market For Tesla Expansion
After being named by Tesla Energy as one of the first key markets, the future of solar power storage is looking bright for the Australian renewable energy industry.
The Powerwall systems will be available to Australian buyers in two sizes — a 7kWh system designed for residential use and connected to a solar system, and a 10 kWh system for long-term backup purposes.
The systems have been predicted to cost around US$3000 for the 7kWh system and US$3500 for the 10kWh. Origin Energy has snagged the golden ticket as official supplier of the Tesla Powerwall systems.
The company’s Head of Energy Markets, Frank Calabria, described the collaboration as a move to “provide households with greater control over their energy use than ever before.”
When Elon Musk announced Tesla’s production of lithium-ion Powerwall systems in April of this year, reservations for the systems went through the roof. Tesla has reported taking nearly US$1 billion in reservations for the batteries since the announcement of the technology. If all current Powerwall reservations are to convert to sales, Tesla will make history with its battery range becoming one of the most popular product launches in American history.
Surprisingly, Tesla is not the first company to develop sophisticated battery storage technology. Tesla’s technology is also open source, meaning anyone is able to replicate it. Many are asking why then is Tesla still taking its time with releasing its systems to the market?
One would assume that, with replicable technology, competitors would have taken advantage of Tesla’s open source software by now. Companies like Juicebox, Sunverge, Greencharge Networks, AES Corp, and Stem, to name a few, are established as well as emerging Tesla competitors and have been producing similar storage technologies alongside the electric car giant. So, considering these large competitors, the question remains: why does everyone want a Tesla battery system and not any other brand?
The Tesla Powerwall can store energy both from the grid and from renewable energy sources like solar. It’s compact, rechargeable, and ideal for small-scale use in homes and businesses — however, so too are Juicebox, Sunverge, Greencharge Networks, and Stem systems. The answer comes down to both price and reputation. Although there are many models that match the performance and capacity of the Tesla Powerwall, what has customers hanging out for the Tesla battery system appears to be similar to the Apple effect of market dominance.
The battery storage market is a complex one, with elements of cycle lifespan and capacity equally as important a consideration as price. As an initial indication, however, price is useful starting point for many buyers. While a number of these competitors are yet to release concrete price points for their storage systems, it can already be seen that Tesla is at an advantage in terms of price per kWh of storage.
Solar Storage System Prices Per kWh
- Tesla: US $350 per kWh (excludes inverter and installation, and doesn’t include building and BOP needed for industrial application)
- Juicebox: US $1,151 per kWh
- AES Corp: US $1,000 per kWh
Customers are not just choosing Tesla Energy as their preferred battery manufacturer, they are happily waiting for the company, which is notoriously unreliable with its timeframes, to release its batteries despite similar technologies being already available on the market. Apple is often described as a monopolistic competitor in the technology market, and it can be seen that Tesla’s position in the energy storage industry is following the same path.
Elon Musk has maintained an even more competitive advantage by commissioning a US$5 billion, 10-million-square-foot “Gigafactory” in Reno, Nevada, that hopes to keep costs considerably lower than competitors. Despite the issue of price, consumers appear to be hanging out for Tesla’s Powerall release regardless of what is already on offer, though.
The Future of Energy Storage
No matter what company is dominating sales, one thing is certain — the global energy storage industry is booming. This comes down to three dynamics working together:
- The price of energy storage technology is plummeting
- Cheaper storage is on the verge of massively expanding the market
- A growing market and increased competition further drives down the cost of energy storage
With governments the world over pushing for increased renewable energy capacity in an attempt to limit carbon emissions, the time has never been better for energy storage solutions. According to research from research firm IHS CERA, the global energy-storage industry, which was valued at just US$200 million in 2012 is predicted to grow to US$19 billion by 2017.
Another US study saw energy storage grow 40% to US$128 million in the last year alone, with energy storage installations expected to triple in 2015. Interestingly, even more progressive technologies are already emerging that could threaten the innovative lithium-ion battery, making the future of battery storage and energy production technology uncertain for companies with large investments, like Tesla.
About the Author: I took an interest in the Australian energy sector close to ten years ago and since then have monitored the trends, technologies and direction of the Australian Energy Market. I was drawn to the Australian solar market in 2008 and since then have worked heavily in the field. I am partnered with national and international solar energy companies, from manufacturers of solar panel and inverter technology; online software developers that introduce tools to quote, monitor and manage solar power systems; and media organisations who, like myself, closely monitor the solar and renewable energy sector.