* Sales in Germany this year soon to reach 4,000 units
* Sales doubling from 2016, sees similar in 2018
* Expanding in Australia, Spain, co-operating with E.ON
By Vera Eckert
MUNICH, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Germany’s Solarwatt, which makes batteries that store power generated by solar panels, expects to more than double production this year and next as the technology gains in popularity at home and abroad, its innovation chief said.
Sales of Dresden-based Solarwatt’s MyReserve storage unit will soon reach 4,000 this year, up from 2,000 last year and 200-300 in 2015, Andreas Gutsch said in an interview.
“We will double sales again next year (from 4,000),” he forecast.
Germany, which is second to China in solar power capacity and derives 6 percent of its electricity from the sun, has 1.6 million mainly small rooftop photovoltaic systems, whose power output used to be generously subsidised by the grid.
But the subsidies are running out, encouraging home owners to try and store unused solar power in batteries for their own use at high demand times.
Customers can recoup the cost of the battery over time with the savings they make by buying less power from the grid - power that is getting more expensive due to rising surcharges to fund Germany’s transition to renewable energy increase.
Solarwatt, owned by BMW heir Stefan Quandt, competes in Germany with the likes of sonnen, LG Chem , and Senec.
It does not give a price for its battery on its own, as it also makes and sells the rooftop solar collectors to go with it, and sells both through local installation companies that earn a margin.
The complete package costs a four-person household between 10,000 and 12,000 euros ($12,000-14,000) but can cover 60 to 70 percent of its power needs.
The battery cost within the package has fallen by 15 percent over the past 12 months.
The package first appealed to technology fans willing to pay a premium for environmental reasons.
“Now, the second cohort of fast followers is coming, then the mass market will follow,” Gutsch said.
Solarwatt is not yet profitable due to high development spending, he added, declining to forecast when the company will break into the black.
A small part of MyReserve output is sold in a partnership with big utility E.ON under the E.ON Aura retail brand.
Apart from Germany, Solarwatt is targeting Australia and Spain, Italy, France and the Benelux countries, Gutsch said.
$1 = 0.8389 euros Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Mark Potter