Redflow launches 10kWh “ZCell” into Australian home battery storage market

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Source: Featured in RenewEconomy Wednesday 30/03/2016

Australian battery storage developer Redflow on Wednesday launched its household battery storage product – dubbed the “ZCell” – which it expects to take on Tesla and other high profile international brand names in what is expected to be the first mass market for battery storage in the world.

The 10kWh ZCell will sell for between $17,500 and $19,500, pricey by comparison with its competitors. But Redflow says its ability to discharge 100 per cent of its power, and its longer life, and its greater size, means that its delivered cost of energy will match its rivals.

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BY Giles Parkinson

“ZCell breaks many of the rules that apply to legacy batteries, making it ideal for the home market,” said Simon Hackett, the IT guru who has emerged as executive chairman of Redflow and its largest shareholders, and who has taken responsibility for writing in the “smarts” that will enable the battery to integrate with home energy systems.

“ZCell lets you discharge 100 per cent of its total stored energy every day, whereas other battery types can require a significant amount of their underlying storage capacity to be locked out to prevent battery damage and to extend battery life. ZCell is a unique flow battery that loves to be fully charged and discharged daily.”

Hackett expects the market for battery storage to “explode” – due to a combination of Australia’s high electricity prices, its high level of rooftop solar installations, a desire for more “independence” from utilities, and because people care about the environment.

Hackett says he is the biggest fan of the Tesla brand in Australia – having bought its $250,000 roadster and several models of its Model S electric vehicles. And he says that Tesla’s marketing success for its Powerwalls has been a “catalyst” rather than the cause of huge consumer interest.

But he says that Redflow has a better battery storage product for households.

“We have got a better technology for stationary storage,” Hackett told RenewEconomy in an interview. “Tesla will sell a hell of a lot of Powerwalls. But it’s not a matter for them to lose or for us to win.”

Hackett says the reason for his optimism is the “durability” of the Redflow battery. Unlike competitor batteries, it can fully discharge, is long-lasting, and does not have overheating issues.

Residential installations for the ZCell battery will start mid year, initially via an introductory rebate offer to eligible shareholders in the ASX-listed company. Full details of ZCell and the opportunity to reserve a ZCell battery are available at www.zcell.com.

Redflow says its battery storage product, using zinc bromine flow battery technology developed at the University of Queensland, and then later through the company, will allow people to ‘timeshift’ solar power from day to night, store off-peak power for peak demand periods and support off-grid systems.

The Australian company is playing hard on its durability, emphasising the fact that ZCell is “warranted to deliver its full 10kWh of stored energy each day for as long as 10 years.” During that period, it says, rival lead acid and lithium batteries can lose a significant portion of their storage capacity.

It is also emphasising the fact that the materials in the battery – mostly plastic, aluminium and steel – are easily recycled. Its fluid electrolyte, less environmental benign, can be re-used or repurposed. And there is no risk of explosion or “thermal runaway” that can afflict other products.

Redflow says the core of ZCell is a Redflow ZBM2 flow battery, which will sit in a “custom-designed outdoor-rated enclosure” that sits on the ground, connecting to a battery inverter/charger unit that delivers stored energy to the home.

The battery is managed and protected by a sophisticated on-board computer control system, written and developed by Hackett’s IT team at his company Base64.

Hackett expects the first large batch of systems to arrive in the country mid-year.

“Redflow does not set the total installed system price as we supply only part of the overall system,” he said in a statement.

“Final system cost will be set by your system installer, depending on your requirements and upon any additional items, such as solar panels, you may elect to include. We expect the fully installed cost of a 10 kWh ZCell-based energy storage system will start from $17,500 – $19,500 including GST.”

He said it was easy to construct larger systems that use multiple ZCells where more energy is required, such as in larger homes or commercial installations. The ZBM2 core battery is already delivered in systems all the way up to Redflow’s grid-scale Large Scale Battery (LSB), which features as many as 60 batteries in a single LSB.”

Redflow is installing some exemplar ZCell systems between now and June and is also inviting energy storage system designers and installers to register their interest to become a qualified installation partner at www.zcell.com. It is also offering eligible Redflow shareholders a $1000 rebate for installation of a ZCell-based energy storage system.

For full interview with Simon Hackett, please see our story on our sister website RenewEconomy here.