Sonnen announces ‘suburban microgrid’ model for new-build Australian estates

A new Australian housing estate that will use solar and battery storage to create a kind of suburban microgrid is set to be announced by German home battery storage giant Sonnen.

In a visit to Australia this week, Sonnen CEO Philip Schroeder said the SonnecCity concept – which is also being rolled out in Arizona, in the US – was perfect for new housing estates and retirement villages, with the cost of the solar and storage built into the cost of the home, just like other core electrical appliances.

Sonnen said the first micro-grid could be announced this week in a new housing development in NSW, where the battery maker has already teamed up with building products supplier Bristile, both for a solar roof tile, and to get an inside running with housing project developers.

The move in Australia follow’s the launch of the company’s “SonnenFlat” product, which installs solar and storage for no up-front cost, instead charging a fixed monthly “software” fee to the household (usually around $30-$40).

SonnenCity works on the same principle, but in this case solar and storage is installed at the time of construction, the resources are pooled together in the housing development and the households are charged only a monthly “software fee” for their electricity use.

In the Arizona project, where Sonnen is teaming up with US house builder Mandalay Homes to install solar and storage in 3,000 new homes, it will create a virtual power plant with 8MWh of storage.

Schroeder says that a SonnenCity community would need to draw less power from the grid, could maintain power in the case of a wider blackout, and could provide essential grid services where the need arises. It would also mean less need for costly grid infrastructure upgrades, and significant cost saving for households.

“Micro-grids are the only way to find smart solutions to build communities,” Schroeder says. “The problem you have in Australia (with high grid prices) can only be solved by distributed supply and distributed storage.”

“We are optimistic about electricity prices in the long term,” Schroeder says. “They can be reduced. …There is no dispute that renewables are more economic. What we need to do is settle that volatile production, and find a way to manage the loads. That something is called the internet, and that helps make the loads able to follow the production.”

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Giles Parkinson

Giles Parkinson regularly contributes unique content to Solar Choice News. Giles is the founder and editor of clean energy industry news service RenewEconomy. He is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the founding editor of Climate Spectator.
Giles Parkinson