Solar City to Make Battery Backup Standard

September 22, 2014

Cleantechnica:

At a private shindig in little town called New York City last week, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive and Chairman Elon Musk (Lyndon’s cousin and also the CEO, Chief Product Architect, and Chairman of Tesla Motors) made a few casual but potentially world-changing announcements, as is practically a habit with Elon.

Most notably, they stated that SolarCity would be including battery backup systems with every single one of its rooftop solar power systems within 5-10 years. Many of those, but not necessarily all of them, would come from Tesla’s planned gigafactory.

Even with the battery backups, Lyndon and Elon contend that a SolarCity installation will cost less than the price of electricity from the grid!

For Tesla Motors, the leap from a mobile EV battery to a stationary battery package for businesses is a logical move, now that its production costs are on track. Tesla co-founder JB Straubel explains:

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. We expect this market to grow very rapidly now that we have crossed this economic threshold.

MIT Technology Review:

Rive and Musk, who are cousins, also said at the New York event that within the same time frame electricity from solar power would become cheaper in the U.S. than power produced from natural gas. To meet that target, the pair both plan to build two major manufacturing operations that will feed off each other. One of Musk’s other companies, Tesla Motors, announced plans earlier this month to build a vast factory for producing lithium-ion batteries in Nevada (see “Does Musk’s Gigafactory Make Sense?”). This factory will supply batteries for its electric vehicles as well as to Solar City. While some lithium-ion batteries and solar cells are made in the U.S. today, the vast majority are made in Asia.

Both companies’ manufacturing plans are ambitious but also risky, given the recent track record of U.S. energy companies, and because unexpected technology advances could quickly render the components produced in those plants outmoded. In the case of solar panels, there is also the continued threat of heavily subsidized competition from China. For both companies, the bet is that rapidly growing demand will allow new economies of scale to lower the cost of manufacturing these components, which in turn will lower the cost of solar power.

Although Solar City has only one small factory so far, it’s negotiating with New York State and potential partners to fund one about as big as the largest one in Asia. Rive says he plans to follow this with factories 10 times as large. At such a scale, assuming solar cell efficiencies can be steadily improved, the cost for installed solar panel systems would be cut by about half, from $2.30 per watt to $1.20, Rive says.

Vivek Wadwha in the Washington Post:

In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones.  McKinsey & Company noted that the handsets were heavy, batteries didn’t last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant.  It predicted that in 20 years the total market size would be about 900,000 units, and advised AT&T to pull out.  McKinsey was wrong, of course.  There were more than 100 million cellular phones in use 2000; there are billions now.  Costs have fallen so far that even the poor — all over world — can afford a cellular phone.

The experts are saying the same about solar energy now.  They note that after decades of development, solar power hardly supplies 1 percent of the world’s energy needs.  They say that solar is inefficient, too expensive to install, and unreliable, and will fail without government subsidies.  They too are wrong.  Solar will be as ubiquitous as cellular phones are.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years — as costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. Energy usage will keep increasing, so this is a moving target.  But, by Kurzweil’s estimates, inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years.  Even then, we will be using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth.

In places such as Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest United States, residential-scale solar production has already reached “grid parity” with average residential electricity prices.  In other words, it costs no more in the long term to install solar panels than to buy electricity from utility companies.  The prices of solar panels have fallen 75 percent in the past five years alone and will fall much further as the technologies to create them improve and scale of production increases.  By 2020, solar energy will be price-competitive with energy generated from fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis in most parts of the world.  Within the next decade, it will cost a fraction of what fossil fuel-based alternatives do.

 

27 Responses to “Solar City to Make Battery Backup Standard”


  1. […] Cool news…using batteries from the gigafactory Tesla is building outside of Reno, Solar City will be including battery backup systems in 100% of the rooftop solar systems they install within 5-10 years.  This is significant partly because it helps illustrate the rapidly decreasing costs of both solar panels and battery backup systems, but also because it is likely to have a major impact on our current energy production and distribution systems…the old grid will become obsolete eventually, but the transition won’t be easy for the larger energy companies.  Read more at climaterocks.com. […]

  2. SmarterThanYourAverageBear Says:

    Given the enormous subsidies the fossil fuel industry currently gets, not the least of which is passing their pollution and cleanup costs on to the general public, it constantly amazes me that anyone would pull out that old strawman about renewables being uncompetitive without subsidies.


  3. residential-scale solar production has already reached “grid parity” with average residential electricity prices.

    Note the caveat, “residential electricity prices”.  This includes the averaged cost of infrastructure and availability rolled into the energy fee.

    Commercial customers don’t pay the average.  They pay for what they use including peak demand, excess reactive power, excess harmonic generation, PLUS the total energy consumed.  It’s high time that residential billing shifts to the same basis.

    It is much cheaper to supply 500 watts 24 hours a day than to supply 12 kWh in the 3 PM-9 PM time slot.  Flat per-kWh rates don’t take this into account.  It’s high time that we did.  TRUTH IN BILLING!

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Beware of what you wish for.
      There are more than enough militantly-minded people who’ll drop off the grid if a complicated bill makes them think the utility is ripping them off.
      Trying to force them to stay on the grid or taxing them higher if they willfully disconnect can get ugly real quick.
      A single dispute over one guy with some cows arguing over grazing fees almost devolved into a shooting war of 1000 yahoos with guns against the Feds.

      Imagine 100,000+ Oklahomans literally up in arms wanting off the grid because solar panels & battery storage becomes cheaper than paying OG+E rates in high summer.
      Are the cops going to stake out every home waiting for the owner to flip the disconnect?
      How do you plan to protect the grid from retaliation when every neighborhood transformers and every substation is a target from disgruntled militants, some of whom might be employees?


      • You seriously think that the power companies would get police to stop people from disconnecting from the grid?!  I’ve seen Greenie lunacy before, but that’s easily the worst case yet.

        Here’s a hint:  if you want the utility to disconnect YOU from the grid, all you have to do is stop paying them.  Your scenario is close to the ravings of a paranoid.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          They’ll try to get it made into law and made a felony. You may think it’s lunacy but look how worried they’re are about solar when’s it’s a mere fraction of 1% of the total generated.

          The utilities will be happy to disconnect non-paying customers when it’s a tiny fraction of their base but get enough customers in a short time wanting out and they’ll sing a different tune.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          “Your scenario is close to the ravings of a paranoid.”
          Judging by things (especially about guns) you’ve posted in the past, I’m not sure if that’s praise, insult or both.

          • Glenn Martin Says:

            Since less than half of electricity consumers will have switched off the grid by the time the utilities are at the financial collapse stage, the government will step in with grants to keep it from folding and leaving most people in the dark. This will be financed by a small tax that we all pay.


          • the government will step in with grants to keep it from folding and leaving most people in the dark.

            Not necessary.  What the government will do, given the technological change of electronic meters, is change billing from flat-rate to peak-demand and a lower rate of per-unit energy (possibly at market rates determined by supply and demand rather than specific tariffs).

            Even at today’s commercial rates, subsidized solar PV is uncompetitive.  If solar has to bid a price into a market that’s saturated on sunny days around noon, it may have to pay to get on the grid.

            That will kill significant penetration of solar PV in the short term.  Sad, but true.

            In the longer term, users may purchase equipment that lets them serve their needs at minimum cost.  For instance, a cold-storage refrigerator could run like crazy during the hours around noon when the PV is cranking, then coast through to the next morning drawing just a few watts for a circulating fan and the light when the door is open.  During sunless periods it would run more or less continuously, or even run only when other loads were off to manage net demand to be as flat (and cheap to serve) as possible.

            None of this will happen without bringing all electric generators AND CONSUMERS into the market.

        • SmarterThanYourAverageBear Says:

          I guess you haven’t seen the news about the new law in Cape Coral, Florida that makes it illegal there not to be connected to the grid. I guess all the city officials must be greenie lunatics by your standards then


          • I guess you haven’t seen the news about the new law in Cape Coral, Florida that makes it illegal there not to be connected to the grid.

            I guess you haven’t heard about the decision that says it’s entirely legal to be off the electric grid (but one must connect to city water).

            As usual, the claims are distorted and ultimately false.  Don’t try again before admitting that YOU WERE WRONG.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            Let’s be clear about what actually happened – her situation was declared as unfit according to the city and in VIOLATION of code and she was served with an EVICTION notice.
            It took a court decision to overturn that and your article clearly states that the CITY has to APPROVE her electricity setup.


          • the CITY has to APPROVE her electricity setup.

            And everyone else’s wiring has to pass inspection per the electrical code too.

            It never ceases to amaze me when people see what’s obviously (to me) a propaganda spin on something utterly unremarkable and standard and get themselves worked up about it.  Are you really THAT dumb?  When you find such things, why don’t you lash out at the source for playing you for fools?  If you held them accountable, they would have to stop… so WHY DON’T YOU?

            They get away with it because you let them.  They treat you like sheep because you behave like sheep.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            “And everyone else’s wiring has to pass inspection per the electrical code too.”

            How did you manage to type that sentence without actually reading it?
            That’s quite a skill.
            It contains the phrase “electrical code” – which is a published standard.

            What standard is the city using to approve off-grid setups?
            If her situation was “entirely legal”, why was she being evicted?

            As for the rest of your post, it appears to be directed at someone in an entirely different conversation. Let us know when you have time to concentrate on this one.


          • It contains the phrase “electrical code” – which is a published standard.

            Which does not mean that the local inspectors are familiar with the most recent changes or items pertaining to things not used previously in their area—like medium- and high-voltage DC wiring.  They’re human, they can be expected to get things wrong now and then even if they are not malicious.

            If her situation was “entirely legal”, why was she being evicted?

            Residents would be evicted for any other code violation that pulls the certificate of occupancy.  I suspect that not being hooked up to city water, which implies no sewer connection (which would be a massive health issue) was the real kicker, and that seems to be how it was resolved.

            As for the rest of your post, it appears to be directed at someone in an entirely different conversation.

            Crosshairs on your forehead, Mr. Moss.  A lot of this tempest-in-a-teapot was just bog-standard building and health code enforcement, combined with people dealing with a bunch of unfamiliar stuff.  Maybe there was some animus at work (is Ms. Off-Grid a gadfly?), maybe it was just human error.  When you leap to the conclusion that some Deep Dark Anti-Renewable Conspiracy is at work, you’re playing your role in the noise machine at the price of abandoning reason.  That last is deepening the divides in this country… and it is terribly ironic for someone whose camp claims to be on the side of truth and reason.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            Your original statement was this: “it’s entirely legal to be off the electric grid” w.r.t. this woman’s situation.
            Note that the original story from the Off The Grid site says she was never contacted by the city but only found an eviction notice on her door the day after her TV interview aired.
            Is that how “entirely legal” setups are handled where you live?

            “Deep Dark Anti-Renewable Conspiracy”
            I believe Peter has recently put up a post on Naomi Oreske’s Merchants of Doubt.
            You should watch her entire presentation or better still, read the book.


          • Note that the original story from the Off The Grid site says she was never contacted by the city but only found an eviction notice on her door the day after her TV interview aired.

            We can tell from the slant of this story that the city’s side was never told.  So, I’m going to do the anti-conspiratorial thing and look at this from the POV of the city health department:

            There’s a house that’s just had the water shut off by request of the owner (SHE contacted the city).  It no longer meets the criteria for a certificate of occupancy.  So, by the laws on the books, the occupants must be served an eviction notice.

            The eviction notice was duly and properly served.  Et voila, the only thing that ultimately had to be changed to get it rescinded was that the water was turned back on.  Everybody’s happy, except for the noise machine (local representative:  you) that’s still up in arms over the standard and absolutely essential operation of the public health apparatus.

            Is that how “entirely legal” setups are handled where you live?

            She wasn’t legal when the notice was served… a little detail you keep trying to evade, because it debunks your narrative.

            “Deep Dark Anti-Renewable Conspiracy”

            The real conspiracy is pro-“renewable”, as in Vermont.  The actual competition for the gas industry isn’t wind and solar, but nuclear.  Gaz Metro got their competition shut down by the state, and the gas plants to replace it will emit on the order of 280 tons of CO2 per hour.  A few tens of megawatts of wind turbines on once-pristine ridgelines won’t cut the profits meaningfully.

            I believe Peter has recently put up a post on Naomi Oreske’s Merchants of Doubt.
            You should watch her entire presentation or better still, read the book.

            I have been a fan of her videos for some time, have cited them numerous times, and own the book.

            Now tell me something else to give me a good laugh tomorrow morning.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            “There’s a house that’s just had the water shut off by request of the owner (SHE contacted the city). It no longer meets the criteria for a certificate of occupancy”

            So the city didn’t tell her that her request would be in violation of code but proceeded to comply with her request anyway?? Is that what passes for public service in Florida?

            You contend that she wasn’t connected to the sewer system but in the video interview, she says she just fills the toilet tank with rainwater and flushes.

            “She wasn’t legal when the notice was served… a little detail you keep trying to evade, because it debunks your narrative.”

            What’s bunk is your characterization of the powers-that-be. If THEY shut off the water at her request, they are to blame.

            Try debunking this: “A city official told Channel 4 that the municipal government is willing let her stay in the home if she can prove conditions are sanitary. The city was willing to compromise because of adverse publicity and a local attorney who was willing to take Speronis’s case on a pro bono or free basis.”

            So bad publicity trumps code? Good to know.


  4. […] Cleantechnica: At a private shindig in little town called New York City last week, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive and Chairman Elon Musk (Lyndon’s cousin and also the CEO, Chief Product Architect, and C…  […]


  5. […] good news for a change via Peter Sinclair via several reliable sources: Battery backup to rooftop solar is on the threshold of going […]


  6. Reply to https://climatecrocks.com/2014/09/22/solar-city-to-make-battery-backup-standard/comment-page-1/#comment-63860 re-parented for readability:

    So the city didn’t tell her that her request would be in violation of code but proceeded to comply with her request anyway?? Is that what passes for public service in Florida?

    How do you know they DIDN’T tell her?  Are city employees supposed to second-guess lawful requests from women until they’re assured they understand all the consequences?  We don’t have any interviews with the city workers, remember.

    I’m truly impressed with your dedication to the work of the Progressive Noise Machine.  If they didn’t turn off her water, it would have been sexism.  Since they did turn off her water at her request, and then followed the law thereafter, it’s anti-renewable prejudice.  And her failure to do her homework and get the city’s signoff before the fact is obviously the city’s fault.  It’s that oppressive thing called law and order, which the noise machine has hated and fought for longer than I’ve been alive.

    she says she just fills the toilet tank with rainwater and flushes.

    I’ve done much the same when my well pump was out.  But I’m on a septic system, handling my own wastewater.  Is she freeloading, using sewage treatment services without paying (typically handled as a line-item on the water bill)?  I would not be the least bit surprised if she is… and I bet you’re okay with that.

    If THEY shut off the water at her request, they are to blame.

    Which would make them sexist, in the book of Progressivism.  She had no responsibility, for anything.  Typical Progressive attitude.  The authorities are always wrong, unless they’re Progressives.  They they can order you around to their heart’s content, and even kill you if you don’t comply fast enough to suit them.  That’s standard communist/Progressive practice.

    the municipal government is willing let her stay in the home if she can prove conditions are sanitary.

    In other words, the city is willing to bend so long as they’re satisfied that the goals of the health code are being met.  Human waste isn’t contaminating the groundwater, being washed down the gutters or otherwise creating a health hazard or nuisance.

    So bad publicity trumps code? Good to know.

    The city looked at the cost of being flexible, vs. the cost of fighting a nuisance suit brought by a deep-pocketed Progressive, and did the right thing for their own taxpayers.  Maybe not for the law in general, but for their taxpayers.  But you can only interpret this through the lens of “oppression”.

    Your username is an anagram of “Miss Moron”.  That is eerily accurate.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Progressive machine in Florida??
      You clearly haven’t done enough research on the story. Do more, think more, pontificate less.
      Your “reasoning” that the utility would comply with a request to disconnect because they feared accusations of sexism but would them declare the premises uninhabitable without inspecting them when they could have simply pointed to the letter of the code at the beginning is ludicrous.

      “Your username is an anagram of “Miss Moron”. That is eerily accurate”
      For an engineer, you have a very loose definition of accuracy, but given your continual frothing over any slight to your entrenched agenda, it’s not at all surprising.


  7. […] It’s fascinating that, when I did my previous video about electric car solutions, one of the main points I was making was the idea of “V to G”, vehicle to grid storage of energy – which is still a good, viable idea – but the interesting addition to the mix now is the rapidly exploding revolution in solar technology, and right behind that, battery tech.  Just a few years ago, the idea was that the only batteries large enough to store significant energy would have to be in a car, they’d be too expensive to be part of a household system. Now, better technology, and equally important, new economic models, are going to make household energy storage systems much more common, even ubiquitous. […]


  8. […] It’s fascinating that, when I did my previous video about electric car solutions, one of the main points I was making was the idea of “V to G”, vehicle to grid storage of energy – which is still a good, viable idea – but the interesting addition to the mix now is the rapidly exploding revolution in solar technology, and right behind that, battery tech. Just a few years ago, the idea was that the only batteries large enough to store significant energy would have to be in a car, they’d be too expensive to be part of a household system. Now, better technology, and equally important, new economic models, are going to make household energy storage systems much more common, even ubiquitous. […]


  9. […] safeguards mid- to excessive-end laptop strategies in opposition to surges/spikes and Bargains battery backup in the experience of brownouts or blackouts. The CP825LCD unit has a capacity of 825VA/450Watts, […]


  10. […] is making a not-so-secret move into home and grid electric storage.  Look for an announcement in the news late thursday/early […]


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