The company’s name may lead to many jumping to conclusions that aren’t entirely accurate. Yes, WATTS Battery does develop and manufacture battery packs, however they are part of a broader vision to make grids more reliable, energy efficient, while reducing their carbon footprint. With a ‘lego-like’ stackable concept, WATTS.MODULE is a 1.5 kW battery designed with user-friendliness, practicality and versatility in mind. Whether it’s using it as an alternative power source for a household in an area prone to power outages, storing renewable energy to use at any time, or as a replacement for a conventional gasoline generator, WATTS.MODULE has been developed to be suitable in multiple environments. WATTS hasn’t limited itself to individual use, however, with a vision to build a virtual powerplant by utilising a decentralised network of its modules, feeding grids at peak times when they’re struggling to fulfil demand. With an international outlook, and a footprint in Europe and the US, WATTS aims to be a key player in the energy storage and management fields.
WATTS Battery was founded by Yuri Vlasov, a Russian renewable energy entrepreneur. After travelling to California in 2015 he wanted to bring Tesla’s Powerwall to Russia, however, the partnership never came to fruition and decided to create his own product that could compete with Tesla’s offering. Creating a user-friendly product was key to WATTS, reducing the burdens of installation and need of any sort of approval. The initial prototype was presented in the 2018 CES event in Las Vegas, one of the largest exhibitions for consumer electronics in the world, where they made their first sales and saw initial indications of the product’s market potential. WATTS’ R&D team is split between the company’s European headquarters in Cyprus and their US headquarters in California, giving them easier access to their two main target markets.
Specifically in Cyprus, three team members are based on the island, one of which is Andreas Procopiou, the Chief Product Officer, himself a founder of a renewable energy startup in Australia. His background in software relevant to batteries allowed WATTS to further develop their software included in WATTS.MODULE. Their establishment in Cyprus led to a partnership with ARIS, a Deloitte backed Limassol accelerator, where they received advice on improving their business plan, as well as on how to approach customers and investors. Following a $3m investment they started an initial production and installed beta versions of their product, WATTS.MODULE, in Spain, the UK, Moscow and Nigeria, giving them valuable technical and customer feedback.
WATTS.MODULE is a system for both energy storage, as well as management, mainly targeted at customers in Europe and the US who want to store and manage their solar power. Alternative products, offered by Sonnen, Tesla & LG, require various additional parts to work, such as inverters, chargers and communication devices. WATTS.MODULE, in comparison, includes all the necessary features within the device, as well as inputs for various sources of energy, directly from the grid, solar or wind. Furthermore, unlike its competitors which require additional parts to expand their storage and power capacity, WATTS.MODULE was designed with a ‘lego-like’ concept in mind, where users can stack multiple modules, without requiring the assistance of technicians.
One of the key competitive advantages of WATTS.MODULE is its flexibility and adaptability, catering to various customer needs, regions and uses. The device can be used for outdoor activities, such as camping or by mobile workers who would have otherwise used a gasoline generator, and customers in regions which face grid instability with frequent power outages, benefiting from the module’s instant response to any loss of power. The module is also aimed at customers in markets such as the UK, US and other European countries which alter their electricity prices based on time, where electricity at night is often cheaper. WATTS.MODULE gives users, ideally those in smaller residencies, such as apartments, the opportunity to charge them at night and use the electricity from their module during the day. The ease and simplicity of installation means that even those who rent apartments can install it, as it does not require any major installation work, and can simply disconnect the device and move it to another apartment if needed. The charging period can be set by the user through WATTS’ mobile app.
Each WATTS.MODULE has a capacity of 1.5kW, enough to power a fridge for roughly a day. At the moment, the system costs €2,000, placing it among more expensive competition. Part of the high cost is due to their currently small pilot phase production capacity, producing batches of 100 units each time.
WATTS cooperates with a number of distributors in European markets who buy the modules, with WATTS providing customer support services. Although not actively selling in Cyprus, partly due to the net-metering provided by the local electricity authorities, the Cyprus-based team is promoting it to locals, some of which having found new ways to use it. One example is of a camera crew who replaced their traditional gas generator with WATTS.MODULEs in their solar panel equipped van, further demonstrating the products flexibility. Although currently targeting residential and private users, WATTS is working on products aimed at industry, with capacities ranging from kW to MW.
WATTS recently moved its international headquarters from Cyprus to California, maintaining Cyprus as its European base and dividing the R&D team between the two locations. The move was partly motivated by their primary goal to enter the US market, which they aim to go beyond their existing energy storage technology and enter the demand-response and virtual powerplant markets. The goal towards a virtual powerplant concept will allow WATTS.MODULE users to sell their stored electricity to utility providers automatically, offsetting the reduced production during peak hours, such as those that might occur at night. By doing this, it will create and utilise a decentralised network of their batteries. Although they’re targeting this idea to the US market, countries in Europe can also accommodate it, such as the UK and Italy.
The international residential energy storage systems market was valued at nearly $7bn in 2020, with an expected CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of over 20%, between 2021 and 2028, according to Emergen Research, a Canadian technology market research firm. The declining cost of batteries is the primary driver of the market’s revenue growth, along with increased demand for such systems in developed countries, particularly in areas experiencing mass-grid outages, sever weather conditions and wildfires. Broader shifts towards more environmentally friendly energy production and cheaper electricity, resulting in higher adaptation of renewable energy generation, such as solar panels, are additional factors in the growth of residential energy storage systems. The adoption of these systems is expected to further accelerate due to the challenges posed by irregular renewable energy generation, government incentives and legislation, as well as overall technological innovation within the sector. Optimism in residential energy storage is reflected by the significant investments made by established players in the market, such as Tesla and LG, however, the relatively young age of the market means that a large portion of the public is still unaware of this technology and their benefits. As the industry is still quite nascent, there aren’t sufficient numbers of experienced and skilled technicians in the field, negatively impacting the markets growth.
In the US alone, according to a 2019 article by McKinsey & Company, yearly installations of residential energy storage systems grew from 2.25 MWh in 2014 to 185 MWh in 2018. The growing prominence of these systems, according to McKinsey, will create a network of these storage units, giving utility companies an alternative way to deal with peak demand by utilising these systems which might not be used by customers on a daily basis. Rather than starting often inefficient peaking plants or investing in grid infrastructure which will only be used in extraordinary circumstances, utility providers could integrate these energy storage systems into their grid to offset peak demand. Such efforts are already undertaken by some US states through pilot programmes that allow customers to be paid by utility companies for using their household systems when the grid is struggling to cope. As mentioned above, WATTS has already set its sights on such a project as its primary focus in the US, aiming to integrate its modules to create a decentralised network of energy storage units. Although the challenges of integrating such a system into existing infrastructure are vast, it seems that there are various factors pushing it to succeed, giving WATTS the potential to be part of a revolution in energy still largely unknown to most of those who could benefit from it.