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Sunamp, Trina Solar sign deal to combine thermal batteries with heat pumps

Ben Welter - Monday, November 05, 2018

Sunamp Ltd. has signed an agreement with Trina Solar to develop an integrated solution combining Sunamp heat batteries now made in Scotland with heat pumps manufactured at Trina's new factory in Changzhou, China.

With more than 14,000 employees, Trina is one of the world's largest PV panel manufacturers. Sunamp, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, has about 30 employees. Sunamp's Uniq heat batteries, made at Sunamp's factory in East Lothian, use a salt-based phase change material to store excess energy generated by solar PV systems. The stored energy is released on demand to provide heat and hot water.

The two companies signed a memo of understanding Oct. 20 at the opening of Trina’s new heat pump factory.

Trina Solar VP John Ding, left, with Sunamp CEO Andrew BissellThe combined system will use Sunamp’s batteries in conjunction with solar panels and heat pumps to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. According to Sunamp, the system will offer 23 to 35kWh of storage.

“Our unique heat battery technology extends and enhances the range of capabilities of heat pumps, and the combination of solar PV, heat pumps and heat batteries has exceptional potential to cut fuel costs, address climate change and improve air quality," said Sunamp CEO Andrew Bissell (right, with Trina Solar VP John Ding).

Sunamp’s heat batteries, which have been installed in thousands of homes across the UK, will be paired with Trina heat pumps as part of a trial of the integrated solution in 20 homes in northern China this winter. If the trial is successful, the integrated solution will be launched in China in the second half of 2019.

The collaboration with Trina is Sunamp's largest to date, in terms of manufacturing scale and potential revenue. He and Maurizio Zaglio‎, Sunamp's international business development manager, provided details on the agreement in phone and email interviews last week.

Q: How did Sunamp make the initial contact with Trina?

A: "Mr Eagle Su and Professor Feng visited our factory earlier in the year. Eagle is the general manager of Trina Energy Management Co. Ltd, which is the section charged with launching Trina into the heat pump market. Professor Feng heads up the Trina Institute of Strategic Studies in Beijing."

Q: The article mentions Trina's "expansion into the heat pump market." Is the new factory in Changzhou producing Trina's first heat pumps?

A: "Yes. We signed our memo of understanding at the launch event. We were one of only two non-Chinese Companies invited to the launch (the other was Danfoss). The launch was 'full on' with over 1,000 installers visiting the Trina Energy heat pump factory on the Friday and a large indoor event on the Saturday with over 350 attendees, including key management from all leading heat pump vendors in China, local and national government and institutions fully represented, and led in 'keynote style' by the CEO of Trina Solar, Jifan Gao."

Q: What stood out for you on your visit to the factory?

A: "It had very modern, state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and we were struck by the very full lineup of products ranging from small room-scale to 150kW large commercial/industrial heat pumps. Trina are clearly VERY serious in entering the heat pump market."

Sunamp's UniQ heat batteriesQ: What are the key features of the latest version of the Uniq heat battery?

A: "They are even more compact and installable than our previous Gen 2 (SunampPV) products ... Very flexible on inputs (solar PV, thermal, grid electricity, heat pumps ... Two outputs at once (e.g. heating and hot water) ... No need for the usual extra plumbing needed with a hot water cylinder ... Highest thermal efficiency and A+ rated under Europe’s ErP (Energy-related Products) directive at all sizes UniQ 3, 6, 9 and 12 NB. No range of hot water cylinders is A+ rated across the range. Most can muster a B or A at the smallest size (like 70L, equivalent of the UniQ 3) but this drops off to B, C or D at larger sizes. Sunamp is A+ all the way ... They are ready for deep integration to heat pumps via refrigerant loop ... We warranty the storage for 10 years ... Extremely cost effective on all of lifetime, OpEx and CapEx measures ... They look good (much less clutter than water tanks)."

Q: Talk about the PCM used in the battery.

A: "It's our flagship material, SU58, with a melt point of 58 Celsius, sodium acetate trihydrate, with a couple of components that are there to ensure nucleation and ensure stability. And they do that. [In testing] we've reached 40,000 cycles now, which is, we think, pretty convincing at full heat battery scale. These are done on a 2.5 kWh heat battery, full cycle being 40 degrees to 80 degrees back to 40. It still has significantly more than 95 percent capacity at that point. To be honest, we stopped testing. That's a lifetime's use for any reasonable product ... about 50 years."

Q: Assuming the trial goes well, will you shift some production to China?

A: "More than likely. It doesn't make sense to ship things over a huge distance that can be made efficiently and effectively right next to where they can be integrated with the heat pump for the local market. Trina has a very large campus, with three PV factories and the heat pump factory. If they want us to be on that campus, there's more than enough space."

Q: The combined system is said offer between 23 and 35kWh of storage. Are those numbers based on tests of full-scale prototypes?

A: "We have fully trialled this kind of heat pump plus heat battery (plus solar PV) in a number of UK test homes. These sizes come from that trial base. A full trial is planned in China over this winter involving Sunamp and led by Trina."

Q: What excites you most about this opportunity?

A: "The scale of ambition shown by both the Chinese government and Trina in responding to it. 66 million homes in China still source their heat and hot water from coal. This has major impacts on both air quality and carbon emissions leading to climate change. We are really excited to be partnered with Trina in their strategy to address this. And also to be partnered on the wider level with such a leading company."

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