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Renew | April 2014

The next game-changer is affordable battery storage technology

Hiren Shah, Head - Energy Business, Panasonic India, speaks to Devarajan Mahadevan on the Japanese giant´s innovative and sustainable practices and the company´s plans to use India as an incubator for the latest technologies.

Recent research reports have indicated that as electricity storage improves with advancement in battery technology, this could shake up the traditional power distribution model. What are your views?
Yes, we do agree to this as the next game changer is affordable battery storage technology that can hold large amounts of energy from solar panels on a home or business. With this advancement, there are systems which are self-sufficient and do not depend on the grid and they also get clean and pure power which is much cheaper and reduces dependence on grid power. These systems have already taken shape in Japan and America where the grid is used as a standby option and the usage mainly comes from a renewable and alternate energy source using an efficient storage system like Lithium Ion battery modules.

Continuing from my earlier question, could you tell us about the latest developments from Panasonic Energy India?
Panasonic India is making available a wide range of solutions to cater to the Indian market and our batteries meet multiple market needs and are ideal for a variety of consumer, commercial and industrial portable power applications. In terms of the latest development, we are looking at developing a 1.5 kWh battery module to provide energy storage solutions for a wide range of applications. Multiple units can be connected in series and/or parallel to store energy generated by home-use photovoltaic (PV) systems and fuel cells or power electric vehicles (EV). We have already launched this in Japan and America and are looking at introducing this in India which is low priced, has high power connectivity and is compact and light in size.

Panasonic has always emphasised that sustainability is an important cornerstone of its business. With specific reference to the Energy division, could you elaborate on your sustainability practice?
Our business strategies and models are made keeping in mind the long term situation and vision. There is a lot of research and investigation that goes before designing or creating new products. For example, we investigated and studied the energy requirements of 1200 villages, towns and cities in India and under¡stood the mission critical applications for farmers, schools, government institutions, banks, offices, hospitals and residences. We under¡stood how unavailability of energy affects their day-to-day lives. With long life, affordable and reliable energy products designed to meet those requirements, we not only make a transformation to the lives of millions of people but also keep a sustainable growth for our energy business.

A Panasonic venture, the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, was scheduled to open in March 2014 in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Panasonic has called this a ´town of the future,´ which will showcase the latest in resources management and renewable technologies. Can you give us some more information on the same?
The goal of the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town is to create a sustainable town which makes the most of the blessings of nature and promotes local production for local consumption. Moreover, we aim to realise a safe, peaceful life for residents by linking and using electricity and information networks. In this project, a new concept and process will be adopted to build the town by designing spaces first with a primary focus on services based on people´s lifestyles and creating an optimal smart infrastructure. In Fujisawa SST, Panasonic will offer Smart Solutions by providing eight services that will comprise five categories for smart lifestyles (energy, security, mobility, healthcare, and community), plus club service, finance, and asset management. While bringing energy to the life of residents as the town concept, we will provide services that enhance people´s lives with photovoltaic power, security, mobility, community, and healthcare.

Can you elaborate on the kind of R&D activities that Panasonic is currently engaged in?
At Panasonic the basic theme for development is to create, store and manage energy. We mainly focus on the power management in the telecom tower and then verify our technologies at the Indian lab and promote them. Various technologies that are tested include the LIB Battery Management, Degradation Diagnosis, Blackout Prediction, Dust Proof Coating etc.

According to reports, Panasonic is expecting tremendous growth in its eco-solutions category. What is the scenario in India?
India is a very important market for us and we are aiming to make India the focal point of our expansion plans and make it a global manufacturing hub to start exporting to markets like the Middle-east and Africa. India has been recognised as the only ´strategic country´ for Panasonic´s evolution in the future. Panasonic is a technology powerhouse and products offered are high on energy conservation parameters and thus eco-friendly. The Indian consumer is price-driven but gives due importance to technologically advanced products, high on energy saving meters. Our products will gradually but steadily try and find a middle-ground between price-points and innovative and energy-conservation products.

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