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China's Envision joins investors in German battery firm sonnen cash boost

* Start-up secures 76 million euros for expansion

* Range of firms tap into power-battery schemes

* Users can become more self-sufficient, pool power

By Vera Eckert

FRANKFURT, Oct 16 A German battery maker which allows people to store and pool electricity said it has secured 76 million euros ($85 million) from venture capital investors, including Chinese wind turbine and energy management group Envision, to develop its systems.

Start-up sonnen, formerly Sonnenbatterie, said in a statement on Sunday it plans to use the money to expand in Italy, Australia, the United States and Britain.

Its technology allows renewable power to be stored and then used when weather conditions prevent sufficient generation.

Such storage is moving into a price range which makes it more affordable for German householders, potentially challenging utilities such as RWE and Uniper.

With 250 staff and sales of 26 million euros last year, sonnen said it had sold 15,000 of its lithium battery units.

It has also launched a scheme to connect households with solar panels on their roofs with other consumers in an online sharing platform which it aims to develop with the help of fresh equity.

This "community" has drawn 3,000 members within less than a year, making users relatively independent of conventional suppliers because they can provide each other with energy by exploiting weather patterns in different regions.

Envision Energy's Chief Executive Lei Zhang in September told Reuters he plans to spend around 1 billion euros on acquisitions and partnerships in northern Europe over the next 3-5 years, to tap growth opportunities in the region's transition to green energy.

In the case of sonnen, its involvement would fit in with its smart grid management software that connects decentralised green power production units, and its presence in various research hubs in Asia, Europe and the United States, the statement said.

Envision and Thomas Putter, ex-chairman of investment firm Allianz Capital Partners, are each taking a minority stake, while existing sonnen investors also invested unspecified amounts of the 76 million, the company added in a statement.

These investors are eCapital of Muenster, MVP of Munich, SET Ventures of Amsterdam, Inven Capital of Prague, and General Electric's GE Ventures. ($1 = 0.8928 euros)

(Editing by Chris Steitz and Alexander Smith)

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