BERLIN, Nov 25 (Reuters) - German battery maker Sonnenbatterie has launched a scheme to connect households with solar panels and other consumers, aiming to better distribute surpluses of the renewable energy and help members to become more independent of conventional suppliers.
The start-up company hopes the scheme, called “sonnenCommunity”, will boost demand for its batteries which store solar power, allowing owners to use the clean energy even when weather conditions are not favourable.
“SonnenCommunity allows all households that want to determine their energy futures themselves the access to affordable and clean electricity,” said chief executive Christoph Ostermann at the project’s launch on Wednesday.
The initiative comes at a time when battery technology, long seen as expensive, is approaching a point where ordinary householders can afford it.
By storing solar power and releasing it on demand, households can avoid having to buy more expensive power off the grid to supplement their production. The batteries could also help solar power households cope with a phasing out of subsidies currently paid when surplus power is sold to public grids.
Sonnenbatterie has sold 8,500 lithium battery units, saying this makes it the European market leader.
Germany has around 25,000 batteries in operation that can store solar power - still a small number given there are around 1.5 million solar production units, mostly located on roofs of family homes - but year-on-year sales are growing rapidly.
U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla is also looking to enter the market. It plans to start delivering wall-mounted batteries that can store solar power to Germany in early 2016.
SonnenCommunity takes the storage idea a step further, allowing solar power to be shared among its members.
Sonnenbatterie said the scheme would initially target the 1.5 million solar power producers who, if they sign up to the community, will receive a battery storage system with a starting price of 3,599 euros ($3,812). But eventually, the offer will also be open to non-producers, it added.
If the idea of battery-powered buildings takes off, it could pose a challenge to traditional utilities such as RWE and E.ON, which still derive the bulk of their power from big centralised power stations running on fossil fuels.
$1 = 0.9442 euros Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Mark Potter