Germany’s Sonnen to build battery factory in South Australia and move HQ

The green energy revolution continues to gather pace in South Australia as German battery manufacturer Sonnen announces that it will be building a battery factory near Adelaide.

Sonnen is the world’s largest home and business battery storage company and is looking to give Tesla a run for its money in Australia. It will also be relocating its Sydney head office to Adelaide.

Sonnen also partners with Bristile in Queensland, to produce solar photovoltaic roof tiles, which can then be hooked up to storage batteries.

The Adelaide battery factory is expected to be functional and producing batteries within nine months and will create 130 jobs, said Premier Jay Weatherill on 22 February.

Mr Weatherill, who is seeking re-election for a record fifth term in the March 17 state election, has put green energy at the forefront of his campaign.

Labor pledges cheaper power from renewable sources and more security

Since the 2016 blackouts in South Australia, the Labor government has pledged to make the state more self-reliant in terms of electricity supply and has increasingly turned to innovative green solutions such as wind power, solar power, thermal solar and a host of others.

The story that grabbed the headlines was the construction of a large-scale battery storage facility by Telsa, which has already stepped in to stop the grid from tripping during a summer heatwave in Victoria.

Another battery storage facility by Electranet is also due to begin operating this month.

Speaking during a media event to announce the new investment, Mr Weatherill said that Sonnen was expected to expand operations in the next five years and that the job complement would increase to 190.

The Sonnen plant will have a knock-on effect, creating another 300 jobs for tradies involved in the installation of the batteries.

Battery factory to go live within nine months

battery factory

Chris Parratt, head of Sonnen’s Australasian business, said the company will have a battery factory up and running in Adelaide within six to nine months, producing produce 10,000 systems a year to keep up with growing demand in Australia and the Asia-Pacific.

The company is considering four separate locations on the outskirts of Adelaide including the former Holden car-making site and a new Tonsley Park precinct, which used to house the Mitsubishi car-making factory a decade ago.

He said it would be able to quickly get up to full speed, giving an example of the rapid ramp-up in Atlanta in the United States last year of a similar plant.

“We believe in about six to nine months we’ll be producing our first energy storage system,” he said. Sonnen has 30,000 household batteries installed in Germany.

SA lifts renewables target to 75%

SA Premier Jay Weatherill
SA Premier Jay Weatherill

South Australia’s relentless march towards renewable energy sources and independence from the national grid has drawn heavy criticism from the Federal coalition government. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg recently accused Mr Weatherill of being a “problem gambler who is doubling down to chase his losses”.

He was reacting to an announcement by the South Australia government lifting the state renewable energy target to 75 percent.

Mr Weatherill said the establishment of a battery factory by such a big player was a coup, and a direct result of his government’s policies to aggressively pursue cheaper renewable energy.

Green jobs of the future

“It’s leading to the jobs of the future,” Mr Weatherill said. The SA government is also setting up a $100 million fund offering no-interest loans to households of up to $10,000 each for those wanting to install solar panels or home storage batteries. The interest-free period covers the first seven years.

The South Australian government has also entered an agreement with Elon Musk’s Tesla to build a virtual power plant in South Australia, which would see solar panels installed on residential and business roofs, in return for a discount on their energy bills.

South Australian Liberal leader Steven Marshall wants to remove renewable energy targets but has committed to a $100 million subsidy scheme which is means-tested to help households put storage batteries into homes. He has also proposed a $200 million fund to bolster the state’s inter-connectors to the eastern states grid.

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