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Published on February 15th, 2017 | by Tina Casey


Nothing Can Stop Renewables Now: Top Energy Storage Co. Stakes Out East Coast Turf

February 15th, 2017 by  

The news has been flying thick and fast about Germany-based sonnen, maker of the sonnenBatterie “eco compact” energy storage system. Billing its technology as “the smart way to capture the sun,” sonnen seems determined to race neck and neck with Tesla to fill strong demand in the US for small scale batteries with slim, sleek silhouettes.

In the latest development, sonnen has just just announced the opening of a new manufacturing and R&D center in Atlanta, Georgia. So, why Atlanta?

Another New Innovation Hub For Atlanta

The new facility, dubbed the sonnen InnovationHub, will start churning out product in April.

As an R&D facility, the InnovationHub will ramp up sonnen’s US business, which is already growing at an “exponential” rate according to the company. Here’s a snippet from Christoph Ostermann, sonnen Group CEO:

We expect that linking our US manufacturing and R&D teams in one facility will increase the rate of product innovation, and enable us to better adapt to the future needs of the high-growth U.S. residential energy storage market.

Like Tesla, sonnenBatterie is based on lithium-ion technology. One difference is that sonnnen enables its customers to dip into the community aspect of small scale, distributed energy production and storage, paving the way for the “virtual power plant” of the future:

Through its sonnenCommunity, energy independent homeowners throughout Europe can produce, store and share their own electricity. sonnen’s latest developments, the sonnenFlat-Box, which connects non-solar customers to the sonnenCommunity and grid services, and the sonnenFlat tariff, which provides community members with energy at $0 for 10 years, are changing the way energy is used.

As for the choice of Atlanta, that’s a natural. Sonnen already has a foothold in California and when it went shopping for an east coast location, Atlanta’s Midtown Alliance probably caught its eye with pitches like this:

Vibrant. Innovative. Sustainable. A community at the epicenter of life and business, urban and natural, technology and culture. Home to the city’s premier green space, historic neighborhoods and Southern landmarks. This is Midtown Atlanta – in the heart of it all.

Midtown Atlanta’s Innovation District is already a hotspot for clean tech companies and other R&D, anchored by Georgia Tech University, so there’s that.

Another Deep Red State Goes Bright Green

Trump-watchers may recall that as President-elect, just days before taking office, Donald Trump threw some serious shade on Atlanta:

President-elect Donald Trump harshly criticized Georgia Rep. John Lewis on Saturday, tweeting that his district was “in horrible shape and falling apart (and not to mention crime infested) …”

That description could fit parts of many communities across the US, both urban and rural — including Trump’s hometown and birthplace, New York City.

CNN has pointed out that “horrible shape” certainly does not apply to the Atlanta business community:

Since 1986, Lewis has represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, which is home to almost 750,000 people. The district serves as headquarters for several Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines. Atlanta is also home to the world’s busiest airport, which is undergoing a $6 billion expansion, one of the world’s largest aquariums, and, for transparency, CNN.

As for Georgia, the state does not exactly have a reputation for clean tech friendliness, but now that the state is US headquarters for a leading global energy storage manufacturer perhaps state officials will begin to pay a little more attention to their constituents in the clean energy field.

That’s what has happened recently in the red state of Oklahoma. Though the state is an epicenter of US oil production, conservative Republican Governor Mary Fallon recently went out of her way to praise a new wind farm and embrace wind power as an important feature in the state’s energy resources.

Georgia is going green whether elected officials are on board or not. CleanTechnica recently noted that the energy company Georgia Power is ramping up its renewables commitment, and former President Jimmy Carter is building a huge new solar farm on leased property near his hometown of Plains.

Meanwhile, the US Army has just completed its “Georgia 30×30” solar development program, which brought new 30-megawatt solar farms to three of its bases in the state.

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Photo: Battery manufacturing facility via sonnen.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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