A small Australian company owned by indigenous aborigines is taking on corporate giants as the country's fledgling home solar battery industry gets off the ground.
Although the Brisbane-based upstart, AllGrid Energy, is in direct competition with the world's home battery marquee player, Tesla, it sees the company's presence in Australia as healthy for its own bottom line.
AllGrid’s marketing manager, Deborah Oberon says while sales of Tesla’s Powerwall have begun, it has spurred an interest in its own offering. The company has started delivering its system to customers in South Australia and Queensland.
Oberon says although orders were “ticking along”, 2016 will be “the year that storage really starts to kick off in Australia”.
“Once Tesla’s system is available in February, that will be the moment the game really starts to change,” she says. “With the coverage and publicity that a company like Tesla get, we’re really confident the market will heat up.”
AllGrid’s 10 kilowatt-hour GridWatt system sells for $12,000. This is 30 percent cheaper than the Powerwall, and can cut household grid power consumption by 75%.
The GridWatt costs less as it features older tubular lead acid gel batteries in an aluminium cabinet that has to be installed outside a home. Tesla's smaller, indoors packages are based on lithium batteries.
Oberon says the company hopes its “cost-effective” offering will encourage sales, especially in the remote indigenous communities. The company’s chief executive and majority shareholder, Raymond Pratt, is a Darwin-based Aborigine, who went from electrician to founder of Dice Australia, AllGrid's parent company.
At present, the remote indigenous communities rely on costly and pollution heavy diesel generators.
“Obviously as an indigenous company working with Indigenous communities, it’s a really big area of traction for us,” Oberon says.
AllGrid has several projects under way in Indigenous communities, both on and off the national power grid, and plans to train local Aboriginal electricians to install its systems.
Tesla and AllGrid are among many companies hoping to capitalize on a promising market for solar batteries in Australia, which leads the world in per capita take-up of rooftop solar panels.