Solar services company SolarCity has announced that it will begin bundling energy storage with solar power for businesses, and the lithium-ion battery systems will come from Tesla Motors.
The SolarCity/Tesla pair-up makes sense because Tesla Motors Founder and CEO Elon Musk is also Chair of SolarCity, and as the story goes, helped to come up with the idea for SolarCity during a road trip to Burning Man years ago. Apart from that connection, for customers, it is being said that the new service will help businesses to generate their own renewable energy and use it when grid power is charged at the highest rates. It will also serve as back up power for business when there are grid power outages. This back up power job has traditionally be done by polluting diesel generators.
The Tesla-branded storage unit can be mounted on a wall and looks a bit like a small fridge. The storage unit contains hundreds of lithium-ion batteries – the same batteries found in the Tesla Model S electric car.
Similarly to SolarCity’s solar leasing services, customers of the new bundled energy storage service won’t have to pay the substantial upfront cost of buying the system, which would be about $15,000. The unit will be leased to customers in a multi-year contract to keep costs predicable. SolarCity’s stated goal is to eventually include a storage system with every solar system it sells.
SolarCity has actually been offering residential customers the option of a battery storage system with its solar leasing, but that has been marketed as back-up power rather than as an overall cost-saver. Householders don’t pay the same high demand charge from utilities that businesses do. The company is initially pitching the service in areas of California where the demand charges of utilities is quite high.