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Battery ready solar inverters in Australia

Is your solar inverter 'battery ready, and if not, what can you do about it?

A 'hybrid', or 'multi-mode' inverter controls both the solar panels and the battery.
You can easily identify a hybrid inverter because it has a pair of connectors labelled 'Battery' or 'Bat' as in the case of the Huawei hybrid pictured below.

 

All hybrid inverters use their own 'Energy Meter' or 'Smart Meter' that is installed in the switchboard and has clamps that go around your phase cable(s). This meter is continuously measuring your home power consumption and this lets the hybrid inverter know whether to store surplus solar power in the battery, or release stored battery power to power something in your home. Huawei hybrid single and three phase smart meter pictured below and an example of it in action in the reporting software screen grab.

 

 

Once you have your hybrid inverter and smart meter installed, then you simply plug in whatever batteries the hybrid inverter manufacturer has approved for use with their inverter.
Almost all brands of hybrid have approved the LG Chem range of batteries, but some will work with Samsung, BYD, Pylontech and other Lithium batteries. The reason they all work with Lithium batteries is that they expect the battery to be fully drained every single day, and yet still last 10-20 years. Lithium chemistry allows this daily depth of discharge.

 

All the Huawei residential inverters are hybrids, even the tiny 2kW model, but most manufacturers have at least one hybrid in their range. SolarEdge, Goodwe, Sungrow, Delta, Solis, SolaX all have single phase hybrids in their range. Many of these can also work on three phase, but actual three phase hybrids are rarer. The "Fronius Symo Hybrid", a variant of the non hybrid Symo that was originally released to work with the original Tesla Powerwall, and currently only works with the Fronius battery is one 3 phase hybrid, SolaX have a couple too, and Goodwe and Huawei are releasing their 3 phase hybrid ranges by mid 2019.

 

How much extra do you pay for a hybrid inverter?

The Goodwe 5kW single phase regular inverter is $1,200, their 5kW hybrid $2,200

The Goodwe 5kW 3 phase inverter is $1,600, the 5kW 3 phase hybrid is $2,500

The Sungrow 5kW single phase regular inverter is $1,270, their 5kW hybrid is $2,530

The Huawei 5kW single phase inverter only comes as a hybrid and is $1,600

The SolarEdge 5kW single phase inverter is $1,620, the hybrid $2,320

The Fronius Primo is not available as a hybrid yet, but the regular 5kW is $2,020

The Fronius Symo 3 phase 5kW inverter is $2,180, their 5kW 3 phase hybrid is $3,590

 

The Goodwe and Sungrow hybrid prices include the smart meter  (comes in the box), the regular Goodwe and Sungrow models do not support a smart meter.

The rest of the inverters in the list do not include the smart meter.

Huawei, SolarEdge and Fronius all have single and three phase smart meters that can be installed on hybrid and regular inverters for the purpose of reporting on home power consumption. Single phase smart meters range from $185 to $220, and Three phase from $235 to $420. All prices exclude installation of approx $200 for any inverter, and $165 to $200 for the smart meter.

 

 

What do you do if you already have a solar installation and want batteries?

There are 2 million solar installations in Australia, mostly installed since 2010, and more than 99% of them don't have a hybrid inverter. However, there are battery products that can be installed that don't care what solar you have. They connect directly to the switchboard, which is why they are called 'AC Coupled' or 'AC Batteries'

 

The best known of these 'AC Batteries' is the Tesla Powerwall 2, but there are others, including the German designed Sonnen Battery which are now being assembled at the old Holden car plant in Elizabeth, South Australia. These products aren't just a battery, they include an inverter, and that's why often, but not always, they work out a fair bit more expensive than a hybrid inverter plus a battery does, especially if you DON'T have solar already but are in the market for a new system.

 

So, if you have a decent size solar install already, large enough to produce sufficient surplus solar during the day to charge up the battery, then you can install a Tesla Powerall 2, or Sonnen battery or indeed a host of other products including SMA Sunny Boy Storage coupled to an LG Chem battery, or a Goodwe SBP with a BYD battery.

 

It's very hard to say exactly what this will cost you. In WA we have absolutely zero battery subsidies yet, but should Labor win the upcoming federal election, and keep their promise, then anyone earning under $180k will be eligible for a $2,000 battery subsidy.
On top of that, various subsidies are being offered at a state government level, with South Australia being the most generous with up to $6,000 off, and some Victorians and Queenslanders getting $2-3k discounts on batteries. Nothing concrete in WA although Minister Ben Wyatt did publicly air his thoughts on a battery subsidy to replace the REBS scheme a while back. There's a huge problem with too much surplus solar hitting the grid at mid day with no customers to buy it, and it's also raising voltages beyond allowed limits. Batteries soaking up this surplus would solve the problem, which is why subsidies are possible, even probable.

 

A Tesla Powerwall 2 costs about $12,000 installed before any subsidies.

Alternatively you could replace your existing inverter with a hybrid like a 5kW Huawei at a cost of $1,800 inc swap over costs, install the Huawei smart meter ($350 inc install), and then connect an LG Chem 10kWh battery at a cost of $8,800 installed making a total of $10,950 before deducting any subsidies.

 

You are buying solar now and want to be battery-ready.

A Tesla Powerwall 2 or Sonnen battery can be installed on any home, with any solar, new or old, as it doesn't have any connection at all with the solar apart from intercepting any surplus solar power that might otherwise be exported back into the grid and storing it in the battery.

Therefore, every solar installation anywhere, anytime, could be called 'battery ready'.

 

However, from talking with thousands of people its pretty clear that the general understanding of being battery ready, at least from the customer perspective, is that they can, when the time comes, simply plug in a battery into the inverter, and for that, then ONLY a hybrid will do.

 

Let's say you are trying to decide between a Fronius Primo and a Huawei hybrid.

If you buy the Primo ($2,220 installed) then you know that it will cost you $12,000 to add the Tesla Powerwall 2 later, making the total cost $14,220.

If you buy the Huawei it will cost $1,800 (installed) and then $8,800 (installed) for the LG battery and $350 for the installed smart meter, making a total of $10,950.

 

That saving of $3,270 is why so many people are choosing hybrids now when they are buying a complete NEW solar install. The real beauty is that you are paying no more upfront, in fact a little less, so if you never install batteries you don't lose out, and if you do, you have the same choice of plugging in whatever the hybrid works with or any of the 'AC Coupled' solutions like Powerwall.

 

Of course the actual costs to buy batteries is very likely to fall over time. It might happen very soon with state and federal subsidies (already happening over East), but there is also a pretty clear sign that as more batteries are installed the economies of scale are reducing costs. For every doubling of installs, the price goes down 19%. Something like that.

 

Getting the right amount of battery.

One of the huge advantages of buying an inverter and its smart meter (e.g. Huawei, Fronius, SolarEdge) is that you learn so much about your home power consumption, and this not only helps you modify your habits and use now to save money, but down the track, it informs you how much battery storage you'll need. The trick to getting the fastest possible return from the battery investment is to fully discharge the battery every day, and for most people taken across a full year, not just hot days in Summer when the AC is on, it seems like typical consumption after the sun has gone down is about 8-10kWh per day. Electric vehicles are gaining in popularity and one of the best ways to fully drain the solar battery is to dump what's left into the car, but not withstanding that, if you buy more battery than you need then it will cost you more, and take longer to provide a profit on your investment.

 

Hybrid (DC Coupled) is more efficient than 'AC Coupled' with lower losses.

A hybrid takes the DC solar from the panels, checks in with the smart meter to make sure the house doesn't need all of it at that moment, and then stores the surplus into the battery. No DC to AC conversion. Then when the smart meter tells the hybrid that the house needs some battery power, it converts the battery power which is always DC, into AC so it can be used in the house. By contrast, a regular solar inverter always converts ALL the DC power from solar into AC and sends it to the house. If there is some surplus, the 'AC Coupled' inverter inside the Powerwall or Sonnen etc, connected to the switchboard, intercepts it before it flows out into the steet via the Synergy/Western Power meter, and stores it in the battery, where, when needed by the house, it is converted again from DC to AC. Two conversions, not one. The hybrid has significantly lower losses and therefore makes better use of your solar power.

 

Which is the best hybrid solar inverter?
They are all very good, or at least, whilst it's a bit 'horses for courses' we've been pretty good at matching the right hybrid for our customers needs, but the overall best, at least, in our opinion is Huawei. It's not just that it is very competively priced, it's the total future package. What's here now is great, but what's coming is exceptional, and absolutely all of the new stuff is promised to be backwards compatible. If that term is unfamiliar, it means that new stuff will be available for existing installs. MC Electrical in Queensland, a solar company we have a great deal of time for, wrote a review on their website shortly after Huawei first released their residential hybrid in January 2018. Mark's review was pretty accurate back then, but the steady stream of Huawei upgrades has answered every criticism.

 

What is the best 'AC Coupled' battery?

For AC Coupled batteries as an add-on to an existing system then its hard to ignore the very good Tesla Powerwall 2. The German designed and Australian assembled Sonnen Battery is equally impressive, but there are also very good products emerging like the AlphaESS which is already being rebranded as Goanna. They all include an inverter inside the battery cabinet.

 

Hybrid inverters currently available (March 2019) in Australia

 

AlphaESS

The AEV SMILE5 is a 5kW single phase hybrid. It is nicely put together, and has just over 10kWh of its own battery storage. There are some variants, such as the Goanna 3kW being one that's currently being pushed pretty heavily that we discuss on the battery economics FAQ page.

 

Delta
The only hybrid in the Delta range is the E5, a single phase 5kW hybrid that works with their own 4.8kW battery (but rather confusingly called the Delta 6.0 battery).

 

Growatt

There is meant to be a 5kW single phase hybrid (SPH model) in the Growatt range, but as yet, there we have found no information available for it in Australia. The rest of the Growatt range are not hybrids.

 

Goodwe.
Have the largest range of hybrids with the ES, EM single phase hybrids which work with BYD and Pylontech 48V batteries, SBP AC Coupled inverters working with the same batteries and the new 3 phase L-ET range which works with higher voltage (over 48V) batteries. However the very popular (and much cheaper) NS, DNS, and LDT models are NOT hybrids.

 

Fronius
The Fronius "Symo Hybrid" is indeed a 3 phase hybrid which works with the very expensive Fronius battery at the moment, but the more popular Fronius Primo range and regular Symo range are NOT hybrids. New upcoming hybrid versions of both Primo and Symo were demonstrated recently at trade shows but as yet, no release date has been announced.

 

Huawei
Huawei FusionHome inverters are ALL hybrids from the 2kW through to the 5kW models and work with LG Chem 7kW and 10kW higher voltage batteries. 3 phase hybrids in the FusionHome range are being released July 2019.

 

Imeon
Single (4kW) and three phase models (10kW) working with a variety of lead acid and lithium 48V batteries. More often used in 'off-grid' environments than city home use.

 

Redback
5kW single phase hybrid only, works with quite a lot of 48V batteries including their own, LG and Pylontech and not just Lithiums, can also work with Lead Acid which is often the preference for those who use this inverter in 'off grid' mode.

 

SolarEdge
SolarEdge HD Wave inverters are not hybrids, but can have an additional external "SESTI" box added (approx $700) to provide a battery interface to work with LG Chem 7kW and 10kW higher voltage batteries.

 

SolaX
SolaX have a large range of inverters, some hybrid, some not, but to make things easy for us all, they have have added the word 'Hybrid' to their range of single and three phase hybrid models. So X3, is not a hybrid, but X3-Hybrid, is a hybrid. No why doesn't everyone do that?
The single phase SolaX hybrids work with 48V batteries (BYD, Pylontech), the 3 phase hybrids with higher voltage Pylontech batteries.

 

Sungrow

The only hybrid inverter in the SunGrow range is the single phase 5kW SH5K+ single phase model which work with Samsung's PowCube and LG Chem RESU 48V batteries

 

Trina
We admit to being a bit confused by the Trina product range. We know for sure there is an AC coupled inverter (discussed in the "What do I do if my inverter isn't battery ready?" section below), but there is also meant to be a 5kW DC coupled single phase hybrid called the Trina Best Powerbox, on which we can find no actual data at all.

 

Zeversolar
There are no hybrids in the Zeversolar range.

 

Not mentioned?

If your inverter is not listed here and it DOES have battery inputs on the underneath then please let us know via the Contact Us page above and we'll update the page (please attach a picture of the inverter and provide its model number)

 

 

AC Coupled inverters (or 'AC Batteries' )

 

AlphaESS/Goanna
An AC coupled inverter with 2.9kWh of battery storage that can be expanded to 11.48kW.

 

Enphase

Just like the Tesla Powerwall 2 further down this list, the Enphase product is a battery and inverter all enclosed in the one box so its hard to say how much the actual cost of the inverter is, but at nearly $2,000 for a tiny little 1.2kW of storage, you are going to probably need about 8 of these units, and another $1,000 for the Gateway (reporting) making it not only a VERY expensive product, but also one requiring a huge amount of wall space.

 

Goodwe
The SBP range from Goodwe work on both single and three phase installations (using their polyphase smart meter) and include a 3.6kW and 5kW model both with a UPS (Emergency back up if the grid power fails) circuit. The SBP inverters work with 48V lead acid and lithium (BYD/Pylontech) batteries.

The 5kW SBP including the single phase smart meter costs $2,200 and installation of inverter and smart meter, excluding the battery, typically $500.

 

SMA SunnyBoy Storage

2.5kW and 5kW inverter connecting to either BYD or LG Chem higher voltage batteries on single or three phase supply. $2,220 for 2.5kW model and $3,790 for 5kW model, including the single/3 phase E Meter and installation of the SMA inverter and E Meter but not the battery.

 

Sonnen Batterie

A stylish cabinet that contains the inverter and a modular stack of 2.5kW batteries made by Sony, and assembled in South Australia. Works on single or three phase, and a hybrid version promised (that we will add to the hybrid list above when available). What is particularly impressive is the simple 10,000 cycles or 10 year warranty on this compared to Tesla (below). If your solar is LARGE and you can recharge the batteries often enough, the warranty allows you to discharge the battery 2.7 times a day for 10 years. Downside of Sonnen, the included inverter isn't that strong. Maximum of 2.5kW discharge rate on single phase and 3.3kW on three phase  low compared to hybrids (4.6kW to 5kW)


Tesla Powerwall 2
Like Sonnen a stylish box with an inverter inside, but this time, not a modular system, just a huge 13.5kWh of storage. It's great value, especially with subsidies.

 

Trina

Awaiting pricing information but we understand it to be similar to Goodwe. This page will be updated when we have more information on Trina's AC coupled products.