Germany’s sonnen to manufacture solar batteries in Adelaide

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Germany’s sonnen to build battery storage manufacturing plant in Adelaide, creating more than 400 jobs and planning 50,000 storage units.

share
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The South Australia Labor government has scored a major coup, announcing that leading German battery storage company sonnen is to establish a battery manufacturing plant in Adelaide, creating more than 400 jobs.

Sonnen, which has entered the Australian domestic market with its “sonnet-flat” battery storage package in 2016, says it intends to manufacture 50,000 battery storage  units in Adelaide over the next five years.

That compares to its sales to date in Australia of more than 1,900, but sonnen Australia boss Chris Parratt says the market is running hot. “Everyone wants a battery.”

The manufacturing plant proposal also follows commitments by the state Labor government to make $100 million available for “interest-free” loans to enable 10,000 homes to install solar and battery storage.

The Opposition Liberal Party proposes a $2,500 grant for battery storage, while Labor has also unveiled a Tesla-led “virtual power plant” to install batteries in 50,000 homes.

The announcement follows a flurry of major news from the Labor government as it enters a bitter and hard-fought election that has renewable energy policies at its heart.

These include the state’s 75 per cent renewable energy target, a 25 per cent renewable storage target, and numerous individual renewable energy and energy storage projects, including batteries, pumped hydro and hydrogen.

Sonnen has been considering a manufacturing plant in Australia for some time, and appears to have been swayed by state government support, particularly its newly announced “interest free” loans, where preference will be made for locally-sourced products under the interest free scheme.

Parratt says the manufacturing plant, to cost “double figure millions” (of dollars), would target both Australia and overseas markets.

“It realises our expectation that Australia will become the world’s number one market for energy storage systems,” Parratt says.

“This partnership not only underscores South Australia’s reputation as the centre for energy policy in Australia, but provides an opportunity for South Australian households to gain access to sonnen technology at fair prices to dramatically reduce their energy costs.”

Sonnen has manufacturing plants in Germany  and the US, and intends to make the Adelaide plant its central shipping facility for Australia and the Asia and South Pacific region. Its regional headquarters will also move to Adelaide, from Sydney.

It says the new manufacturing centre and head office will create 130 jobs in Adelaide, growing to 190 within five years, and with a further 300 installation jobs to be created within six months of the centre’s opening.

Parratt says the economics of battery storage manufacture is based on volume. Cells will be imported but all else will be sourced locally. Currently, too much capital is tied up by the time delay in shipping storage from Germany or the US.

“The economics is about volume,” Parratt told RenewEconomy. “We can go to China and build stuff there, but there is no market in China. We would like to have it the plant up and running and produce our first storage system by the end of the year.”

He is confident that the plant will go ahead regardless of who wins the upcoming election, because the Opposition Liberal party also has its own $100 million plan to encourage battery storage in 40,000 homes in the state,

Sonnen’s unique “sonnen flat” scheme operates like a mobile phone payment scheme. If the household owns the system outright, they pay only a flat monthly fee of $40-$60 a month for their electricity needs.

State energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said the new manufacturing plant would mean South Australian could buy battery storage systems made locally.

“I look forward to the first SA-made sonnen batteries rolling off the production lines and into South Australian homes – delivering cheaper power through more renewable energy,” he said in a statement.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

36 Comments
  1. David leitch 9 months ago

    This is really exciting news. I find the economics hard to understand, most battery factories being built are much larger and highly automated, eg Tesla’s giga factory. Still this a big thumbs up for South Australia.

    • Steve159 9 months ago

      why have you assumed the factory won’t be highly automated?

      As for economics, Australia has all the raw materials to build Li-ion batteries here without importing anything. That plus SA’s “local content” stipulation must have sweetened things sufficiently for them to go ahead.

      Plus, the office rent in Adelaide for their H.O must be way lower than in Sydney, which would have been another incentive

      • DJR96 9 months ago

        Actually we have hardly any of the materials required.
        Yes we have 40% of the worlds lithium coming from WA, but that isn’t even processed into the first stage processing, until next year. And than it needs further stages to get it to a form ready for use in a battery.
        And I don’t think we even process copper or aluminium into the thin foil sheet used in batteries. Nevermind the raw materials for plastic cases etc. So what essential raw materials do we have?

        • Steve159 9 months ago

          As I recall, there was an article at this site which basically affirmed that if one were to section off a 1 mile square bit of land (I think in Norther WA), you’d have all the minerals needed to build Li-ion batteries.

          • Hettie 9 months ago

            Agreed. It seems daft not to do the processing here. We have all the raw matrials for batteries.
            Why is Australia so determined to be nothing but a bloody quarry, when there is so much economic advantage in processing our raw materials here, and selling finished goods overseas, instead of selling rocks for a pittance?

          • Brunel 9 months ago

            AUS needs to put an export tax on raw ores like China and India do.

            Ditto LNG.

        • Brunel 9 months ago

          AUS smelts aluminium.

          Sanjeev Gupta is gung ho about steel production in Whyalla.

        • Barri Mundee 9 months ago

          That lack of procesing capability shows how much we have outsourced much of our ability to manufacture locally. That should be addressed and our local industry given some protection to ensure its establishment and survival.

      • My_Oath 9 months ago

        We have the raw materials – bar one but more on that in a bit – but the problem is we don’t have any of the inbetween steps.

        Here is a list of the steps needed just for the lithium.

        * Mine to produce 1.5% lithia in pegamatite
        – 4 currently operating Greenbushes, Mt Marion, Mt Cattlin and wodgina
        – 3 more commencing by June 30th: Bald Hill, Pilgangoora West, Pilgangoora
        * Concentrator to produce 6% lithia
        – 3 currently operating Greenbushes, Mt Marion, Mt Cattlin
        – 3 more being built: Bald Hill, Pilg West, Pilg
        – 1 in planning: Wodgina
        * Refinery to produce 99.5%+ battery grade lithium carbonate/hydroxide
        – 2 under construction at Kwinana (from Greenbushes)
        – 2 more in feasibility: Kalgoorlie and possibly Bunbury
        – 1 mooted: Port Hedland
        * Cathode plant – to make the precursor chemicals
        – zilch
        * Cell plant
        – zilch (depending on what the actual plans are for Darwin/Townsville)
        * Battery plant
        – 3 mooted. Sonnen, Darwin and Townsville

        As far as the other precursor chemicals, the only one making battery grade cobalt is Syerston in Queensland. (Home storage batteries may not need the cobalt though, I don’t know what the Sonnen chemistry is).

        Syerston is the only one making battery grade nickel sulphide as well, but BHP, and Western Areas have announced plans to add nickel sulphide circuits to their facilities, and another plant is going through the approvals process at Esperance.

        The one thing we don’t currently have is soda ash. All that will have to be imported unless someone gets a plant going.

        Otherwise, every single tonne of many of the cathode chemicals will have to come in via China/South Korea/Japan.

        ——

        As far as anodes, at the moment they are all graphite. We have a few promising graphite projects being assessed, most notably at Ravensthorpe and north of Hall’s Creek.

        A third interesting one is Mineral Resources plans to crack LNG to capture the carbon and produce synthetic graphite using the HAZER process. Their plans are to produce battery grade graphite, and carbon fibre to feed their carbon fibre mining dump trucks and rail cart manufacturing division.

        All of those are a few years away from realisation.

        ——

        An alternative to graphite is lithium-titanium alloy anodes. Neometals has a phenomenal Titanium-Vanadium project in WA undergoing feasibility at the moment, and a patented metallurgical process to produce battery grade titanium and vanadium.

        But that won’t be done in Australian. It will be shipped to China and converted there. We will have to import it. (Lithium-Titanium anodes vastly outperform graphite in charge rates, degredation and thermal runaway risk).

    • Joe 9 months ago

      The Germans aren’t completely stupid. They do have a little bit of business nous to go with their engineering and high end manufacturing skills.

    • Steve 9 months ago

      If there are 50,000 batteries produced by 150 work force (assuming 40 “head office” staff to keep the artithmetic easier) I get 333 1/3 batteries a year per person. Assuming a simple $100,000 per head salary plus on costs that makes salaries about $300 per battery. Not a lot on a battery I hope will come in around $5 k for 10 kW/h capacity.

  2. George Darroch 9 months ago

    This is another win for South Australia. Powering ahead indeed.

    • Michael Murray 9 months ago

      Charging ahead in this case 🙂

  3. Jo 9 months ago

    Good news indeed.
    However I have my doubts about Sonnen’s business model of a flat monthly fee (not ‘free’ as in the article) for electricity consumption. This is counter productive in regard energy saving and reducing the amount of CO2 emissions.

    • Rod 9 months ago

      Yes, for us low use households a lease or hire fee of $60 per Month is not very attractive. I’m guessing that is in addition to the purchase of the battery.

      • Jo 9 months ago

        yes, that is the case.

        • Ken 9 months ago

          Surely its one or the other?
          You either purchase it outright or you lease it , but not both?
          I’m missing something here ///

  4. Jon 9 months ago

    Great news, the cells will be importeted and built into batteries here.
    It’s a good start though.

  5. Patrick Comerford 9 months ago

    The Sonnen battery unit is a very well engineered quality product as you might expect from a German manufacturer. The 2kwh battery units they use are produced by Sony and it’s impossible to believe that these could or would be economically made in Australia even if Sonnen wanted to. Although the Sonnen batteries have sold quite well here they are at the upper price range compared to Tesla and LG for example and on price alone are uncompetitive. If you look inside one of their units it’s really just an assembly of different modules (the inverters are Spanish the batteries are Japanese etc) wired and plugged in together inside a swish looking cabinet. So I would imagine the Adelaide plant would be a fairly modest affair with limited automation of the assembly process. Still it demonstrates that there are jobs in manufacturing if Governments are supportive. I wonder if Joshie will open the new factory when it’s ready.

    • Joe 9 months ago

      …and please have Premier Jay there as well. I’d love to see Round 2 in their ‘Presser War’.

      • Charles Hunter 9 months ago

        But it would need Andy Vesey as well for a proper rematch. That guy’s grin is priceless.

        • Joe 9 months ago

          ..yeah the Andy was the sort of ‘Referee’ last time and he played it beautifully… let the two go at it hammer and tongs…no timeouts or stoppages.

    • Ian 9 months ago

      Not to put a damper on this initiative but ….IKEA goes one better then this proposal with their flat-pack furniture. They have distributed manufacturing. All the bits are imported and then the finished product is ‘manufactured’ right in the home! 😉 😉

  6. Tomasz Wilinski 9 months ago

    NO question about EV??? ;-(

  7. Brunel 9 months ago

    While Vic Gov wastes $60m/year on an F1 race.

  8. David K Clarke 9 months ago

    I’ve read a couple of times now about a proposed “25% renewable energy storage target”. This is a bit meaningless to me. 25% of what?

  9. Robert Westinghouse 9 months ago

    I have 10kW Sonnen Battery, Fronius’s Inverter and will switch-over to Sonnen Flat this month. The batteries are as expected – BRILLIANT. Not cheap BUT I have 3 daughters and a wife to I am not trusting cheap equipment.

  10. trackdaze 9 months ago

    News just in…..

    Coal has been diagnosed with black lung.

    Im afraid Its terminal.

  11. solarguy 9 months ago

    Had me until I read ………….THE CELLS WILL BE IMPORTED!

    • MaxG 9 months ago

      Yep, I knew the Germs were smart; put a warehouse up (maybe with public $$ help or cheap land); let some Aussie put a sticker on, and deliver to the local market. Sell the battery and charge a monthly fee…. simply genius! :))

    • Ian 9 months ago

      Can’t pull the wool over your eyes, eh solarguy! Still makes sense though to assemble battery packs here. Who knows, they might find making and sourcing components locally worthwhile. When you consider much of manufacturing is basically buying machines which can spit out a product, like plastic housings or perhaps sourcing nuts, bolts, wires, electronic components, battery cells from all over the place and putting them together. What constitutes a factory? Assembling prepackaged kits in a warehouse is not a factory. Building a product using existing components could be a factory.

      • solarguy 9 months ago

        Let’s face it, a truly Australian made product is fully vertically intergrated. No reason Sonnen can’t invest or find a local partner to process the Lithium and make the cells too. It would have to be cheaper than to import the cells in the long run and develop more skills of a work force.

  12. john 9 months ago

    Ouch how does this equate to the Minster for the Environment?
    How will he deal with this announcement?
    My guess ignore it.

  13. willholmau 9 months ago

    How long before Rowan Dean or some other RWNJ comes up with ” snicker,snicker Sonnen won’t be able to manufacture batteries in South Australia, because there is no electricity left in SA to run the factory, snicker,snicker” Count the hours people.

Comments are closed.