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SA energy company welcomes Tesla competition

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California-based innovation giant Tesla gained global headlines when it announced last week it would offer domestic battery technology to allow individuals to store excess energy from home solar systems.

The breathless coverage failed to mention that South Australian renewable energy company Zen Energy Systems is likely to get similar – and it says, superior – technology available to customers before Tesla.

In fact, Zen expects to have its domestic energy storage system on the market during the third quarter of this calendar year, using “Li-Ion polymer” batteries produced by Korean tech heavy LG.

Zen already has a battery product on the market for off-grid use in regional and remote areas. The domestic version, dubbed the “Urban Powerbank”, has been developed with the aid of a State Government grant. It has been flagged publicly since 2012, but without any of the hype generated by the Tesla announcement.

Zen’s CEO Richard Turner isn’t worried about Telsa stealing his thunder – in fact, he believes it will provide a marketing push for the home energy storage sector.

“We don’t want to be negative about Tesla at all because Tesla adds huge profile and credibility,” Turner told InDaily.

He doesn’t believe the Tesla product will have the edge in technology or cost.

“We haven’t had a lot disclosed yet about the chemistry in the Tesla product, but it looks like a standard lithium ion battery.

“We are certainly not behind Tesla – if anything we’re ahead.”

He said the Zen system would be cost-competitive with the equivalent Tesla system and would be particularly attractive to those South Australian customers whose five-year solar feed-in tariffs end next year – as well as new solar customers.

“For those people putting in a home energy system, to store that excess power makes a lot of sense,” he said.

A promotional image of the Zen Energy "Powerbank", which uses high density lithium ion batteries to capture renewable energy.

A promotional image of the Zen Energy “Powerbank”, which uses high density lithium ion batteries to capture renewable energy.

This week, Zen’s Tonsley head office was visited by Christiana Figueres, the executive director of the United Nations Climate Change Committee.

Turner surprised Figueres with the news that Zen might beat Tesla to market and he says the UN climate change boss believed the Adelaide tech had great export potential.

Zen says the daily energy consumption of an average Australian home is around 20kWh per day. A typical home storage system could manage about the same amount. Depending on the size of your solar system, the storage option could mean the possibility of energy self-sufficiency or, at least, much less reliance on power from the grid.

Earlier this year, InDaily reported that Zen was in discussions with housing developers who were exploring the possibility of creating off-grid developments using a combination of solar systems, battery storage and other forms of small-scale local power generation.

“Interestingly enough we are having many housing developers coming to us for new housing estates saying – ‘look can you take me through all the options … right through to taking the whole development off the grid’,” Turner said.

“We’re talking to probably half a dozen major developers around the country who have housing developments of two, three, four thousand homes, talking about some sort of hybrid network alternative. Really interesting times there.”

 

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