SolarCity Uses Tesla Batteries for Enterprise Energy Storage

sc-storageSolarCity is geting into the commercial energy storage business by installing and financing batteries and smart software behind the meter.

That could be good news for manufacturers, retailers, and other businesses or schools which can gain more control over their electricity bill. It’s not such good news for smaller competitors such as Stem, Solar Grid Storage, Silent Power or Demand Energy. It’s also a crash course in grid edge reality as consumers take a more active role in their energy usage and continue to challenge the traditional utility-customer dynamic.

SolarCity has already made a foray into residential solar combined with energy storage — now it expects to build and finance 30 to 50 commercial solar-battery systems next year.

We spoke with Eric Carlson, Senior Director of Grid Systems Integration along with SolarCity’s Jonathan Bass. The duo noted “the software legacy” of SolarCity being combined with what Bass called “the world’s most advanced battery pack” from Tesla Motors.

As with most commercial storage applications — the system addresses demand charge management, reduces peak demand, and provides emergency back-up power. Energy storage could potentially integrate with utility demand response programs, engage in permanent load shifting, and cope with EV charging demands.

Hurricane Sandy changed people’s perceptions about grid reliability and disaster readiness — building owners are much more willing to pay for crucial services in the event of a power failure. They want to be able to pump water up to gravity feed tanks and run a service elevator for a few hours. A 200-kilowatt/2-hour battery can do that.

The commercial systems from SolarCity are provided with no up-front cost through a 10-year service agreement, along with lower energy costs from day one, according to the firm.

The system requires no behavioral or operational changes by the business and can power “IT functions, security systems, cash registers and other critical business systems during power outages,” according to a statement.

Peter Rive, SolarCity’s CTO and COO said, “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,”  The company claims that its system “automates the discharge of stored energy to optimize utility charge savings for customers.”

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