Panasonic to Sell Energy Storage in Australia to Tap Solar Surge

Panasonic Corp. will begin selling energy storage systems in Australia to take advantage of the proliferation of solar panels dotting the rooftops of homes in the sunburned country.

Sales will begin in October after a feasibility study is conducted with Australian power companies such as ActewAGL and Red Energy. Rather than direct sales to consumers, Panasonic plans to target utilities, according to Katsufumi Miyamato, an official in charge of the project.

Energy storage is hot at the moment, especially following last month’s announcement from Tesla Motors Inc. that it will sell a suite of batteries to store electricity for homes, businesses and utilities. Like Tesla’s, Panasonic’s version will use lithium-ion batteries.

“Power companies in Australia are faced with dropping sales as the installation of solar panels expand and yet they still need to maintain the grids,” Miyamoto said. “We have been exploring ways to work together” to benefit both users and retailers of electricity, he said.

For consumers, the system allows the storage of excess electricity from solar panels for use when the sun isn’t shining, Panasonic said in a statement. The battery systems will also work as a back-up power source.

Australia has led the world with about 1.4 million homes installing solar panels on their roofs since 2001 as consumers seek to save money and reduce reliance on the electricity grid, according to a study last month by the Grattan Institute in Melbourne.

Global Race

That increase in solar technology puts Australia in prime position for battery storage, Kane Thornton, chief executive officer of the Clean Energy Council, said by phone.

“We’re at the start of a global race, and Australia is clearly a country where it makes a lot of sense,” said Thornton, who estimates 1,000 to 2,000 batteries are in use in the country today.

AGL Energy Ltd., Australia’s biggest power producer, said last month that it would debut a 6 kilowatt-hour home storage battery, while Origin Energy Ltd. Managing Director Grant King said in an interview last month that his company is studying the technology.

The Panasonic devices, which will also be available in New Zealand, will be installed in homes, with demand and supply controlled from offsite servers.

Panasonic is targeting 10 billion yen ($80 million) of home-focused energy storage system sales outside Japan by fiscal 2018 annually, according to Miyamoto. Germany, Italy, and the U.K. are seen as potential markets.