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Home Battery System Plugs In To Your Outlet, Your Aesthetic

Local tech startup Orison is going up against the biggest name in energy storage with a sleek new product that could rival Tesla’s innovation.

Local tech startup Orison is going up against the biggest name in energy storage with a sleek new product that could rival Tesla’s innovation.

Launched on Kickstarter this year, Orison has received an onslaught of media attention for its designer battery system that looks more like décor than a utility product. The company makes a home battery designed to store energy for later use, a technology that’s increasingly popular with the adoption of renewable energy such as solar and wind.

Tesla has positioned itself as a leader in the field, with its latest product (called the Powerwall) hitting the market this summer. After Tesla received a whopping 38,000 orders, the company announced it had already sold out of the system through the first half of 2016.

But the burgeoning energy storage space (cluttered with bulky and expensive systems) is primed for innovation. And Orison’s founder and CEO, Eric Clifton, says he’s offering something that Tesla is not.

Plug-and-Play Feature

Orison’s signature product is a home battery system that plugs directly into a wall outlet, a patented plug-and-play feature that no other energy storage maker can claim. It comes in two versions: a traditional wall-mounted device (similar to the Powerwall), and a stylized tower that resembles a modern lamp/hi-fi speaker hybrid.

The design is not just for show. Clifton says the tower battery has a built-in LED lamp and a Bluetooth speaker, making it a multipurpose piece of furniture rather than a utility eyesore. Soon, it will feature an induction charging station, where customers can place their cellphones for a wireless charge.

‘Lifestyle Piece’

“We wanted the system to be a lifestyle piece with more function and more appeal than just energy storage,” Clifton said.

The panels are backlit with customizable LED lights, and can be stylized with “skins” that transform the battery systems into wall mounted art.

Orison’s systems are small enough to be shipped to a customer’s home or office by FedEx and require no special skills or equipment to install — a huge competitive edge considering all other home battery systems (including the Powerwall) have to be installed by an electrician. In addition to being extremely easy to use, the battery does not require any special agreement with the power companies or the installation of an inverter.

A Home Energy Strategy

Clifton estimates that the typical U.S. home would need about eight of his roughly $1,600 units to hold enough energy to power a house without drawing from the grid. A more practical application, however, is for customers to lighten their electric load using only a few batteries, Clifton said. The idea is to store energy while it’s cheap — either from solar, wind, or even electricity from the grid — to use during peak hours when energy costs more.

“By 2019 or so, most utility companies will have shifted to dynamic pricing, meaning your utility rates could change four or five times a day,” Clifton said. “If you’re using power when everyone else is using power, like from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., then you’ll pay more.”

Using in-home energy storage allows customers to cut down their utility bills, but the tech is also a boon for the solar industry. After all, pairing solar with a battery system can improve the long-term cost savings of rooftop solar. Perhaps most important, however, energy storage helps utility companies manage a seemingly inevitable transition to renewable energy.

“Solar customers are essentially using the grid as their battery storage, but they’re not paying for its infrastructure,” Clifton said. “As more customers put power on the grid, it becomes a real problem. Utility companies have to buy power in blocks from a regulated market, and putting excess power from renewables on the grid upsets the balance and makes it difficult to manage. That’s why utilities are interested in energy storage.”

Need Accessible Systems

To make the shift toward renewable energy go smoothly (and quickly), it’s important that battery systems are accessible to the average consumer, according to a study published by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit think tank researching sustainability. The report finds that most consumers are not likely to completely defect from the power grid.

“The far more likely scenario is customer investment in grid-connected, solar-plus-battery systems,” the report reads. “Since such systems would benefit from grid resources, they could be more optimally sized, thus making them smaller, less expensive, economic for more customers sooner, and adopted faster.”

Orison’s battery system does all of the above — characteristics, Clifton says, that set the company apart from its competitors.

Expected Sales

From a business investment standpoint, the numbers behind Orison seem compelling. Based on pre-orders from companies and individuals, Clifton expects to sell between 15,000 and 20,000 units this year, and 50,000 to 100,000 next year as the production at his small, nine-person company expands. At the midpoint of those numbers, Orison would do roughly $120 million in sales next year.

But Clifton says he’s in conversations with utility companies across the globe that are interested in buying his battery systems to sell to their customers. Based on interested buyers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Latin America, and Europe, Clifton estimates he may sell as many as 500,000 units in the near future.

This fits with Tesla founder Elon Musk’s comments about “crazy off-the-hook demand” for Powerwall batteries. Given the growth rate in this space (and the profit level of a typical industrial OEM) Fortune Magazine estimated that Orison could be worth tens of millions of dollars.

ORISON

Eric Clifton

CEO: Eric Clifton

Revenue: Not disclosed

No. of local employees: 9

Investors: Not disclosed

Headquarters: San Diego

Year founded: 2015

What makes the company innovative: Designer at-home battery storage that makes utility look like decor

Key factors for success: Patented plug-and-play feature, design appeal, affordable product that’s lightweight enough to ship directly to consumer, requires no installation

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