A highly accomplished grid-edge startup, sonnen, has just received a significant investment from European energy giant Royal Dutch Shell. The investment will help it to develop its U.S. and Australian solar + storage market share.
The German solar energy startup sonnen is bringing in €60 million ($70 million) of investment from Shell according to its press release. To date, sonnen has raised $85 million from GE Ventures as well as $3 million in 2013, $9.4 million in 2014, and $12 million in 2015.
Shell New Energies now steps in to help push “innovatively integrated energy propositions, enhanced EV charging solutions and the provision of grid services that are based on sonnen’s virtual battery pool.” Regionally, the focus is on accelerating growth in sonnen’s two primary markets, the US and Australia.
Technically, according to CEO Christoph Ostermann, this investment will help sonnen in further “establishing new technologies such as energy sharing and our virtual battery pool.”
Sonnen & Shell on the Edge
Upgrading the US grid is not easily possible anymore. In order to handle the ever-growing energy needs of our country’s homes, shops, and factories as well as our future electric mobility needs, grid-edge companies operate at the point where limited investments can yield quick returns — at least, faster than deep backbone upgrades. Sonnen has been a leader in this space, winning award after award as well as more and more market share.
Sonnen isn’t Shell’s first cleantech venture. Shell acquired GI Energy, a microgrid developer, and recently put money into Axiom Energy, a startup that builds thermal energy storage systems and now holds in its portfolio Enel, Total, Engie, Centrica, and Tesla CTO JB Straubel, to drop a few notable names.
Sonnen’s Varied Approach to Energy Storage Leadership
Sonnen offers a lithium-ion battery pack system that is one of the top alternatives the popular Tesla Powerwall. They compete against each other in Europe, Australia, the US, and even Puerto Rico.
The company more recently launched its sonnenCommunity projects, starting in Germany where retail business can participate in the communal energy pool to tap its customers’ aggregated battery capacity for money-making or cost-reducing purposes. This is a win-win, essentially benefiting everyone, and is rolling out beyond Europe as well now.
Sonnen is well represented in California, where solar and storage systems are sold more than anywhere else in the country, but they’re also seeing notable success in the Northeast and Southeast. The company also launched its sonnenCommunity program in the Southwest, running a test in Jasper, Arizona, where 3,000 solar+battery equipped homes are being built to help utilities and act as a “virtual power plant.” The specs: 23 MW/hr of storage and an output of 11.6 MW.
Sonnen tackled the Australia market differently by introducing its sonnenFlat program that promises a zero-bill experience for its clients, or at least close to one. This is done in theory by accessing their aggregated flexibility for money-making services and paying each customer their share of the profits.
Taking Money from Shell? Cool? Sure Thing!
According to Ostermann: “Growing faster than the energy storage market and establishing new technologies such as energy sharing and our virtual battery pool requires continued investments. We’re very happy to receive the backing of all our investors and the commitment of a major global player like Shell to follow our vision of clean and affordable energy for everyone.”
The residential solar energy storage business is potentially huge and it is understandable companies are positioning themselves to become tomorrow’s key leaders. Although Tesla receives a great deal of attention, and business, other startups such as sonnen are also now big players helping this emerging market to evolve and grow fast, which should mean better choices and more affordability for us all.