Today we made our way to the energy village of Wildpoldsreid, where we met with the Deputy Mayor, Gunter Mogetel. Wildpoldsried has a population of approximately 2,600 and is considered a European champion for energy as it produces more than 550% of energy than the village consumes. This village is supported entirely by renewable energy souses that is made-up of bio-fuels, hydro, wind, PV, and by using local resources.They are able to manage this all by using a smart grid and battery system and sell back the unused energy to the local utility. While visiting Wildpoldsreid they provided us with an overview of the Sonnen Battery company, our next stop and a local company in the town.
CREATE’s PI, Dr. Ken Walz, had previously talked to Sonnen representatives in the U.S. and it was with great anticipation that the CREATE group visited the headquarters of Sonnen in Wildpolssreid. Sonnen has grown to be a global leader in battery storage in a short nine years since its founding in 2010. It produces home energy storage systems for private residences and small businesses. Its batteries are based on lithium ion technology and can last up to 40 years. The visit started with a meeting to discuss Sonnen’s history and future directions. We learned through discussions that Sonnen has already installed over 40,000 storage batteries worldwide and is expanding throughout Europe, in the U.S. and in Australia. One interesting feature is that Sonnen is the operator of the world’s largest virtual battery. Called the Sonnen Community, the system is decentralized, clean, and networked. The company sees this as an area of future growth. The company also has an innovative program called the Sonnen Ambassadors. These Sonnen Ambassadors have Sonnen battery systems installed in their houses and they allow Sonnen sales people to recommend them as visit sites so that potential customers can view the systems in place and in use. Not only did our group of teachers get a thorough discussion of Sonnen and its products but the enthusiastic staff showed the group the battery systems at each stage of the production process, from assembly, quality control and performance testing. Many of our group felt this site visit was the highlight of the entire learning exchange on energy storage and hope that the recent acquisition of Sonnen by Shell does not slow their momentum or enthusiasm. We are all very grateful for all the time that Sonnen personnel took to answer our questions.