It has been some time since I updated this blog and I will try and rectify that over the next few weeks. This has in part been due to the amount that has been going on that has kept us all incredibly busy, both in terms of life opening up with the lifting of COVID restrictions and getting to the sharp end of the build which has meant more time on site with many final decisions on a range of issues.

However the second reason for the delay is that I will be writing today about a less positive experience on our build which is a difficult post to write.  However having reflected on my experience I consider it is right to share what has happened.

It all concerns the Battery for our solar system.

When we first started on our build we knew we would install Solar PV at some point.  Initially we were inclined to wait a year or so to see how the technology developed, however we decided to go ahead now for two reasons:

1. To ensure the integrity of the roof we needed to get the roofing company to install fixings for the solar panels at the time of installing the roof – so we needed to agree measurements and layout

2. As a new build we could benefit from 0%VAT by installing the system now.

We also considered just installing the Solar Panels at this point and a battery later, as battery technology is moving so fast. However if batteries are installed separately from a Solar PV system they are subject to a 20% VAT charge. Also by putting in a battery back up system now we do not have to invest in a separate generator system to keep vital services working in the event of a power cut.

We therefore started to look at options and met the company CALLIDUS https://www.callidus.co.uk/ at a Home Building and Renovation Show who specialise in off-grid systems. Whilst we are not going to be totally off-grid we wanted the backup security of such a system. Having investigated other suppliers we came back to CALLIDUS as providing the best value for money in terms of expertise, quality of system and outstanding customer service.

Around the same time that we started looking into all of this we were introduced by the friend of some neighbours to Jas Kandola of the Graphene Corporation https://www.thegraphenecorporation.com/ . The Graphene Corporation is an exciting and pioneering company that is doing cutting edge research and product development using Graphene in the energy sector. They had just launched the first Graphene Battery prototype and were keen to test it in the domestic as well as the commercial market. After several weeks of discussion we agreed to purchase one of their batteries that they hope to pitch against premium brands such as the Tesla Power Wall in the future.

Terms were agreed in December 2019 and a deposit paid in January 2020 with an expected delivery date of February 2020.

COVID 19 then struck and when the battery had not arrived by mid-March I followed up with Jas to find out what was happening. He explained that they had delayed production of the battery in China to ensure that it could include their latest software updates. As a result it was not shipped until March and the boat it was on ended up in quarantine in another Port with no idea of when it would be released.

Jas agreed to put another battery into production and arrange to air-freight it so it would be with us by the end of April.

There then followed an increasingly strange sequence of events which saw continuous delays on delivery of our battery. We were told that it had been air-freighted but that TNT had routed it through their hub in Germany where it sat for over 3 weeks. We were then told it had arrived at Heathrow – only for its release from there to be delayed by a further 2 weeks. Then we were told it had to go to a Government Laboratory for testing which took a further five weeks.

Mark and I became increasingly concerned as time went by with the reliability of the communications from Jas and his team. This was exacerbated by them not providing us with any paperwork at any point to prove that the battery had been shipped.

For example we asked 5 times for copies of the bills of lading they were never provided; we asked for evidence that TNT were holding the battery in Germany, this was never provided; we asked for information on the delay by Customs in Heathrow but no information from any customs clearance agent was provided and we requested but never received a copy of the UK Government Laboratory’s test report.

We did however stick with Jas and his team as he continued to assure us that all was in hand.

It was therefore with great excitement I spoke to CALLIDUS on 13 July who had finally received the battery for bench testing on 8 July. I was eager to hear Steve’s opinion. What followed was sadly very disturbing. Steve said he had opened the box with the battery taken one look and was sending me photos. These are produced below. They showed extensive rust damage to the casing in which the battery was fitted and a very shoddy quality of build of the battery itself .

When I received the photographs I was stunned. I immediately called Jas and sent him the photos. His initial reaction was disbelief and he said to give him 24 hours to get to the bottom of it. He then sent me a video purporting to be an inspection of the battery immediately before it was shipped to Callidus. He said this showed no damage. The video was not a detailed inspection, it failed to film the external side of the case with the ruptured metal and did not film the inside of the case that had rust in the joints. Nor did it show the very poor quality build of the battery. You can see the video here:

This is the “inspection video” sent to me by Jas Kandola. As you can see it is not a detailed inspection, it does not show the handle side of the case where the external damage was found nor the inside.

At this point Mark and I decided that we had lost all faith in Jas and his company – particularly as he still refused to provide us with the Government Laboratory report on the battery.  So we returned the battery to him.

We have now installed a battery supplied by CALLIDUS and are extremely happy with the quality of the system.  I will update on this in the next blog.

We did give Jas the opportunity to provide an explanation of this sequence of events but he is still investigating.  If he does at any point update us then we will of course put further information on this blog.  I would note he did return our deposit in full immediately at my request.

Meanwhile I wanted to share this in the interest of transparency and should anyone reading this be considering going with the Graphene Corporation for a battery.

I would also note that whilst this has proved a frustrating and disappointing episode we have been fortunate to have appointed CALLIDUS as our main supplier. They have been very supportive throughout – both in agreeing to install the Graphene battery as part of their off-grid system; then in waiting for 4 months for it to arrive so they could complete the system installation and in coming up with an alternative system at the last minute when the Graphene Corporation let us down. So the tale of the second battery is very positive!

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