Germany-based startup sonnen is a solid leader globally in the residential energy storage market. In January, I spent a good amount of time talking with sonnen CEO and co-founder Christoph Ostermann. I had also interviewed him in January 2017, so this was a good opportunity to see what was new and also dive deeper into some interesting topics.
The first highlight Ostermann noted was a recent spike in business in Australia, which was especially fueled by a big increase in retail power prices there. A second highlight was strong growth in the US market. As a surprise to me, and apparently to them as well, the US boom was driven more by the East Coast and Caribbean islands than California and Hawaii.
I was particularly interested in jumping into sonnen’s work in Puerto Rico (which, by the way, is still facing massive energy challenges). The recent destruction and grid problems from strong hurricanes did instigate more shipments and pulled Christoph over to the US territory, but it’s worth highlighting that sonnen actually had a presence there already. Christoph gave props to on-the-ground Puerto Ricans, but there’s no doubt the high quality and fundamental competitiveness of sonnen’s products opened doors and are highly appreciated for what they’re providing.
One other cool initiative we discussed was a a new community in Prescott, Arizona, that’s going to include solar power and sonnen energy storage systems with all 2,900 homes.
Of course, I roped my home state of Florida into the discussion and referenced Danny Parker’s in-depth “What About Florida?” series. Christoph confirmed the challenges there from sonnen’s perspective, but if you really want to dive deep, Danny’s series is a must-read investigation and explanation of the Florida solar energy, energy storage, and energy efficiency market.
Always curious about the initial seeds of today’s cleantech leaders, I asked Christoph about the start of sonnen, what drove the founders into the market, and if they understood what they were really getting into and where the market was headed. Going back to sonnen’s founding year of 2010, he highlighted that they sold 80 battery storage systems in their first year and now that’s their daily production output. Check out the video for more fun comments.
One of the most fascinating discussions in the energy world is how renewable energy and batteries can “democratize” this industry and the wealth associated with it. I started talking about that a little bit after asking Christoph about potential utility-scale projects, and I found his responses on the business and human leadership side of that really interesting.
sonnen won a 2017 Zayed Future Energy Prize award, and you might have noticed that this interview with sonnen co-founder and CEO Christoph Ostermann was filmed at the 2018 Zayed Future Energy Prize awards ceremony. Special thanks to Masdar and the Zayed Future Energy Prize for having me on the Review Committee and hosting me in Abu Dhabi in January.
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