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LG Chem follows up 90MW grid project with SolaX inverter partnership

Image: LG Chem.
LG Chem and solar inverter maker SolaX Power have formed a partnership around a new hybrid inverter and energy storage system intended as a complete solution for the residential solar market.

The worldwide strategic partnership will focus on SolaX Power’s Hybrid X grid-tied inverter, which offers an all-in-one charger for recharging or discharging and an on board energy management system, as well as fulfilling its role as a DC to AC inverter. The system, which can operate both on and off grid, will now be complemented by the RESU6.4EX energy storage system from LG Chem to offer a new combined solution for systems up to 5KW.

The deal has been in the planning since the middle of 2015 and follows months of extensive testing to ensure the compatibility of both systems, which the companies say confirmed the positive outcomes of the partnership, including the effect on inrush current, current limitation and the potential for recharging and discharging.

Santiago Senn, director for energy storage systems at LG Chem Europe, said: “One of the particular added values for users is the long service life combined with high reliability, which both the energy storage system and the inverter have in common.”

The new cooperative partnership has been prompted by the increasing demand for efficient energy storage systems, particularly for solar PV systems. Michael Zhu, global sale director for SolaX Power, explained: “The partnership between SolaX Power and LG Chem highlights the significance of topics like renewable energies and their efficient use. We would like to take advantage of the opportunity with LG Chem, to further expand our business relationships with wholesalers and installers, especially within the European and Australian market.”

The deal follows news that LG Chem will provide batteries to a 90MW grid-balancing storage project in Germany for power generator Steag.

Hedging against commoditisation of batteries

There has been a growing expectation around the energy storage industry that batteries themselves are quickly becoming commodified. Perhaps spurred on by Tesla's announcement of lower cost residential and large-scale lithium-ion battery-based energy storage devices in April, the process has nevertheless been seen as inevitable, according to a number of sources PV Tech Storage has spoken to in the past couple of years.

With lithium-ion batteries starting to become more accepted as a mature technology and deployed at greater scales in households and EVs, it is probable there will be less to compare between devices from a range of providers that include LG Chem, Samsung SDI, Panasonic and Sony and others.

Senior analyst at IHS, Sam Wilkinson, said that for many companies, it will be a case of finding different ways to add value to their offerings. In a recent conversation with Christoph Ostermann, CEO of German storage provider Sonnen - formerly known as Sonnenbatterie - Ostermann said that his company's launch of a community energy trading platform was part of a strategy to widen the scope of Sonnen's offering to the residential solar-plus-storage market beyond just the provision of hardware.

"It almost mirrors solar in that the actual battery, cell, module profit – it’s extremely hard to make profit there," Wilkinson said to PV Tech Storage today.

"The value and profitability actually comes from providing total systems, so that’s where I think the potential to make money is, in the software, inverters and packaging all of that into a complete system, whereas batteries are becoming commoditised and that makes it extremely difficult to make a profit there."

Additional reporting by Andy Colthorpe.

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