German battery storage firm Sonnen is to open a major production plant in South Australia— squaring up to business rival Tesla in the ‘backyard’ of the US titan’s 100MW Powerpack battery project.
Sonnen confirmed to BBB it plans to manufacture 50,000 of its lithium iron phosphate battery storage systems over the next five years in Adelaide. The company will also switch its Australian HQ to Adelaide from Sydney.
The move marks the latest victory by state government head, Premier Jay Weatherill, to boost the use of batteries in support of new wind and solar power plants and to bolster the state’s creaking energy infrastructure.
Sonnen’s arrival also comes hot on the heels of a deal between Weatherill’s Labour administration and Tesla to provide the US firm’s Powerwall 2 units free to homes as part of a trial solar-energy storage project.
Weatherill, who is in the middle of a campaign for state elections on 17 March, said Sonnen would be “well placed to benefit from Labor's election pledge to provide AUD100 million ($78m) in no-interest loans for households to purchase batteries and solar”.
Sonnen has been lured to the state under an agreement with the state business development agency Investment Attraction.
Adelaide will also become Sonnen's central shipping facility for Australia and the Asia and South Pacific region, the company said.
The initiative will see Sonnen create 130 jobs at its new manufacturing base and head office, “increasing to 190 jobs within five years”. A further 300 installation jobs will be created within six months of the centre opening, Sonnen confirmed.
In addition, Sonnen said it plans to offer low monthly payment “energy packages” to homes across South Australia along the lines of mobile phone plans— putting it on course for heated competition with Tesla.
Sonnen’s MD for Australia and New Zealand Chris Parratt said the partnership “underscores South Australia's reputation as the centre for energy policy in Australia”.
“We are very excited by the prospect of manufacturing in South Australia for the Australian and export markets, and realising our expectation that Australia will become the world's No.1 market for energy storage systems,” Parratt said.
Rivalry between Sonnen and Tesla has extended beyond competition for business to include employees. BBB reported previously how Sonnen had hired former Tesla Energy North American sales manager, Blake Richetta, to lead Sonnen’s expansion into the US.
That followed the earlier defection in the US of a number of high-level managers and employees to Sonnen.