Rival Energy Storage Companies Sonnen and Tesla Angle for Battery Market

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Rival energy storage companies sonnen and Tesla each started the week angling for the emerging smart battery market, with news of financing and partnerships.

Sonnen is positioning to grow its virtual energy business sonnenCommunity, a move it sees boosted by $85 million in new equity investments. The German-based company is expanding on its native turf as well as in the United States, Australia, UK and Italy.

Sonnen wants to become an “energy supplier of the future,” said Christoph Ostermann, CEO of sonnen Group, in announcing two new minority equity partners, including international energy technology company Envision Energy.

“Fast growth and leadership in innovation are the keys to reaching this goal,” he said. “With Envision Energy, we have gained a strategic investor who shares our vision, supplements our technology and has a strong presence in both the U.S. and Asian markets.”

Sonnen’s energy sharing platform, sonnenCommunity, allows customers with solar-plus-storage to feed excess energy into a software-linked pool. Others in the network then tap into the supply rather than purchase power from a utility.

More recently, the company began offering sonnenFlat, a virtual power plant product that allows aggregation of sonnenBatteries into a storage pool that provides balancing energy for Germany’s grid.

Thomas Putter, former CEO and ex-chairman of Allianz Capital Partners, also took a new minority stake in sonnen. Earlier investors include CAPITAL, MVP, SET Ventures, Inven Capital and GE Ventures.

Meanwhile, Tesla and Panasonic have formed a partnership to manufacture solar photovoltaic cells and modules in Buffalo, New York.

Tesla plans to couple the new solar equipment with its home battery system, Powerwall, and its commercial battery system, Powerpack.

The agreement calls for Panasonic to begin PV cell and module production at the Buffalo facility in 2017. Tesla intends to provide a long-term purchase commitment for the Panasonic cells.

Tesla and Panasonic already are working together on the production of electric vehicle and grid storage battery cells at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada.

Tesla wants to create a one-stop shop for solar-plus-storage to make it easy for homes, businesses and utility operations to buy and install the systems. CEO Elon Musk, who owns both Tesla and SolarCity, says merging the two companies will allow this to happen.

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Tesla and SolarCity shareholders are scheduled to vote on the merger November 17.  The Buffalo partnership with Panasonic is contingent upon the merger going forward.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


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