Published on July 14th, 2020 |
by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai
July 14th, 2020 by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai
The battery storage market is really getting exciting now around the world. Australian Finn Peacock’s Battery Comparison Table shows just how many battery storage options there are now. We love the Australian solar market, as it is one of the world leaders, with over 2 million homes now having rooftop solar. A Canberra-based lithium-ion battery test centre regularly releases reports on its independent tests on a lot of these battery options.
Demand for these batteries is growing nicely across the world as prices come down, but you still can’t get a lot of these batteries in most parts of the world, and where you can, the lead times for deliveries are still quite long for some of these brands. This is why several South African startups took up this challenge and started to assemble their own battery packs to cater for a large untapped South African and Sub Saharan African market.
One of these startups is Blue Nova, based in Somerset West (Cape Town). Blue Nova recently launched the Megaboy 1 MWh storage product for large commercial and industrial applications, which we covered here. Blue Nova has just launched a 5.2 kWh modular rack mounted battery as well. Blue Nova uses lithium-iron-yttrium-phosphate (LiFeYPO4) prismatic cells from Chinese manufacturers like Winston (Thundersky). These are then assembled into battery packs in South Africa.
This rack-mounted form factor is pretty popular with installers in this part of the world, as it allows a great deal of flexibility in terms of both system sizing and pricing. These types of batteries are also easy to set up with some popular inverters in this market, such as the All-in-One Phocos Any Grid 5 kW 48V inverter, which retails for under $1000*.
Blue Nova is targeting homes, small businesses, hospital facilities, and data centres with this 5.2 kWh RacPower. Each BN52V-100-5.2k DU unit, as it is called, can deliver 3.5 kW of continuous power. Blue Nova says it can do 2500 cycles at 80% DoD and 9 units can be parallel for a total of 46.8 kWh.
For homes and small offices, local installers really love these modular packs, as they can tailor the PV and inverter side of things for their sites along with one or more of these RacPower batteries according to the customers’ needs and budgets. With this design, Blue Nova is ramping up the competition for established brands that have been promoting similar packs such as the 3.5 kWh Pylontech, which costs $1, 450.
These modular units tend to retail for around $2200* for the 5.2 kWh packs depending on the market. Four of these for around $8800*, and giving 20.8 kWh is a pretty good deal in today’s market, especially when you can add a 5 kW all-in-one inverter for about an extra $1000*.
South Africa has been experiencing some rolling power rationing cycles as the power utility struggles to meet demand. Its regional peers Zimbabwe and Zambia are also struggling. Power cuts in Zimbabwe can go on for as long as 18 hours a day!
Blue Nova regularly hosts installer and distributer training sessions with partners across Southern Africa. By ensuring a strong local support network for installations and maintenance, along with ensuring the availability of parts locally and shorter lead times as compared to similar products imported from overseas, Blue Nova hopes to have a head start and an edge over international OEMs.
A lot of work is going on in the energy storage space to explore several options to reduce the cost of energy storage. The transition to renewable energy is certainly going to emancipate many previously disadvantaged and off-grid communities.
Developments in the energy storage industry at every scale are going to be a key driver. With demand for stationary storage products growing across the world, we hope Blue Nova can scale up quickly and maybe also start to export their products, such as the BN52V-100-5.2k DU, to other continents. This would create much needed job opportunities in South Africa as well as earn the country some more foreign currency.
Images by Remeredzai Kuhudzai
*All prices in USD
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About the Author
Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since.
At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.