Adding to its financed offerings, SolarCity partnered with Tesla Motors to offer Tesla battery technology to SolarCity’s new commercial customers. The idea behind the battery storage technology is to help businesses offset their peak-demand electric use and provide energy to critical operations during blackouts.
The battery storage system can be charged by the customer's solar array and uses SolarCity’s DemandLogic platform, which is designed to offset utility demand charges like peak charges and increasing grid outages. “Utilities have altered their rate structures such that demand charges are rising faster than overall energy rates, and businesses are bearing the bulk of those increases,” explained SolarCity Chief Technology Officer and chief operations officer Peter Rive.
“Time is money, but so are control and predictability. Our storage systems can give businesses the tools to address all three—delivering immediate savings, protection against escalating demand charges and optional, grid-independent backup power in case of outages,” Rive said. The combined offering also is keeping it in the family, kind of. Brothers Peter and Lyndon Rive, SolarCity CEO, are cousins of Tesla Founder Elon Musk.
The battery systems would carry an up-front cost of $15,000 to start, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. However, as with solar modules, SolarCity is offering a financing package for the battery systems under which the customer signs a 10-year service agreement with monthly payments in lieu of up-front costs.
“The economics and scale that Tesla has achieved in the automotive market now make stationary energy storage more cost effective and reliable than it has ever been in the past,” said Tesla CTO and co-founder JB Straubel. “We expect this market to grow very rapidly now that we have crossed this economic threshold.”
The batteries and the energy management system includes learning software that automates the charge and discharge of stored energy to optimize savings for customers, SolarCity said. The company will tailor the battery system to the businesses energy needs. The system can also be designed to power the company’s IT, security systems, cash registers and other critical business systems during power outages.
SolarCity will first offer the energy storage systems to customers of Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, areas of Massachusetts serviced by NSTAR, and areas of Connecticut served by Connecticut Light & Power. The company will roll out into additional markets after the initial launch.
Solar and energy companies are just now dipping their toes in the energy storage market. In November NRG Energy expanded its portfolio of residential and commercial solar offerings with solar canopies that have battery storage. Like the new SolarCity offering NRG can finance the system rather than having people pay for the costs of the batteries up-front.