A small building complex powered by rooftop solar panels and eight windmills is Wang Chuanfu's favorite venue for meeting fellow executives at BYD.
The two-villa compound at BYD's Pingshan base in eastern Shenzhen is known as the company's Future Village – a zero-emissions model for independent electricity production and storage.
The village is also a model for a key venture tied to BYD's future business plans. Power generated on site from the sun and wind is stored in a unique, BYD-made power-saving unit slightly larger than a refrigerator. All of its solar panels, wind turbines, water purifiers and silicon storage cells were built by BYD as well.
Future Village points to the fact that BYD, under chairman and founder Wang, is quickly moving beyond batteries, IT equipment and carmaking. The company is now using its successful, low-cost, vertically integrated enterprise model for a major foray into renewable energy.
In the past, it was widely thought that U.S. investor Warren Buffett's interest in BYD keyed on electric vehicles. But Future Village suggests the real money will be in energy storage units, according to the general manager of Beijing-based research firm Dragonomics, Arthur Kroeber.
Not coincidentally, Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings has started using BYD's battery package system at an energy storage station in Oregon.
Kroeber thinks BYD's core competitiveness lies in batteries rather than automobiles.
BYD's Storage Strategy
An energy storage unit is essentially a large battery pack. BYD currently makes one such product and plans to add a second to its lineup based on an exclusive "iron battery" technology.
Already available is a cabinet-shaped, 380-volt unit with an output of 200 per kwh. One of these units has been installed at BYD's Future Village to provide outdoor power.
BYD says the unit uses about 1,200 "iron batteries" to store 800 KW of electricity, which could satisfy eight months of consumption for a household of four. The unit has a 20-year lifespan and can be fully charged in four hours.
A future product is a 380-volt energy storage unit with an output of 1 MW per hour and 4,000 kwh of storage capacity. It's now undergoing tests at BYD's research institute and hasn't been released to the public.