Home Energy Storage on a Roll

December 9, 2022

This week’s news about terrorist grid attacks around the country probably accelerated a trend that’s been building for a while.

You may have noticed, home energy storage units are increasing in capabilities in a similar way to what we have seen in hard drive storage, or processor speed.

It’s evidence of how rapidly battery technology is improving.
As we move into foul weather season, a lot of people think about some kind of emergency power – I’ve got a generator in the garage, but frankly, I hope I never have to use it – it’s very difficult to start, and moving it around is a big challenge, very heavy.

I’ve been watching the rise of a number of brands turning out these portable power stations that are gradually becoming more affordable, and could get you thru a moderate blackout with at least basic functions, like keeping a refrigerator or freezer going, and perhaps a few other basic items.

This is just the start.
As more households get EVs with plug options, like the new Ford F-150, and others – the options just get wider and wider.

Of course, Tesla and Generac sell pricier options like the Powerwall, which has, I think 13 Kwh of capacity. But a Ford F-150 will have storage in the 98 to 130 Kwh range. That, and some additional hardware, will make it possible for owners to ride out all but the most catastrophic blackout situations.

Additionally, I’m guessing Utilities are watching this trend, because the opportunities keep growing for customers to do electricity arbitrage, buying and storing power when it’s cheap, and using battery during the most expensive times (ie, those times when Utilities hope to make the lions share of there revenue).
It’s one reason why I think there will be increasing pressure for utilities to shift from the default historic position that they are the primary power producers, (many continue to support additional costs for small solar systems, etc) to a system where the Utilities are more the brokers and distributors of electricity services, which I’m told is more what we are seeing in Europe.
I just talked to a well informed friend about this yesterday, and he agreed that load defection is already happening across the US, among bigger customers, and with this technology on the rise, will increasingly become possible for smaller and smaller users.

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It makes sense that someone buying an electric vehicle would also want to buy a charging system and get it installed. But how about solar panels, and home battery storage?

Automakers are increasingly wanting to sell all of these products.

Hyundai recently announced the rollout of Hyundai Home, a service to help the company’s customers match up with installers of EV chargers, rooftop solar and battery storage.

In October, General Motors announced GM Energy, which sells a variety of products for homes and businesses, including solar panels.

Those are just two recent examples. In addition, Ford is more than a year into its partnership with Sunrun to sell EV charging, solar panels and other products to customers buying Ford EVs. And Tesla has been combining EVs and rooftop solar for years.

Some of the add-ons are inexpensive compared to the cost of a car. For example, a charger is usually less than $1,000. But rooftop solar and battery storage are big-ticket items, each with costs of more than $10,000 for most households.

This is a fascinating moment. The markets for EVs, rooftop solar and home energy storage are in early stages in much of the country, and there may be room for automakers to assert themselves as major players in selling all of those products.

But we don’t know if customers want to buy home energy products from car companies, or if car companies are going to be any good at selling home products. It doesn’t help that many consumers cringe at the thought of buying a car, which, despite improvements by automakers, sometimes still feels like a hard sell.

Most of the initiatives by automakers are partnerships with companies that have experience selling energy products. So, it won’t be a Ford salesperson making the pitch for solar panels. Instead, Ford is using the process of selling an EV to create a lead for Sunrun to sell home energy products. Sunrun is the largest rooftop solar retailer in the country.

GM is working with SunPower, another large rooftop solar company. Hyundai’s partner is Electrum, a company that matches customers with local contractors.

The exception is Tesla, which already has in-house production and sales of EVs, solar panels and battery storage systems.

Automakers’ movement into home energy products is tied to one of the most intriguing potential features of an EV: the ability to act as a backup battery for a house or even for the grid.

I say “potential” because this capability requires a customer to have a vehicle built to export electricity, and a home power system that is capable of importing the electricity from a vehicle. Few customers have both of those things.

Some EV owners will soon be able to use their vehicles to keep the lights on during power outages, and grid operators will be able to pay customers for the ability to tap into large numbers of EV batteries to provide power to the community at times of high demand.


5 Responses to “Home Energy Storage on a Roll”

  1. jimbills Says:

    The electric storage units are very cool. Jackery is another brand with a great reputation and they have some nice solar panels that you can add to their system:

    But – you have to buy one of the $1K+ units if you want to run anything as powerful as a coffee machine, and even then you’re talking a pretty limited time span. For recharging phones and stuff – perfect – but you’d have to spend a pretty penny for a true home backup system of anything more than 24 hours.

    “This is just the start.” Granted.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      got it, the gas powered units are still more powerful, but you have issues with Carbon monoxide poisoning, getting the fuel, keeping it in tune during the 99.999999999 percent of the time its not in use, etc.

      Most blackouts are only going to be a few hours, so the momentum in the marketplace for these admittedly less capable units is going to be irresistible, which will continue to drive down prices.

      • jimbills Says:

        “Most blackouts are only going to be a few hours”

        Yes, but most people buy generators for extended blackouts or times when blackouts can cause serious damage in either very cold or hot temperatures. This protection can be done with batteries, but it’s still very expensive to do so, and most, for now, would still opt for gasoline or natural gas backups if they felt the need to do so.

        Besides cost, the second main problem with battery backup for blackouts is redundancy. Say the grid goes down. You can’t find new sources of electricity except by owning your own solar panels, which is also very expensive, and it takes time to recharge from them. An NG or gasoline backup is redundant, however – not infinitely so, but significantly more so.

        I don’t have a gas generator, and don’t ever intend to buy one. I prefer going rustic if it’s necessary. I tend to get mildly irked by neighbors with insanely loud generators during the handful of 24 hour or longer blackouts we’ve had in the winter, but I understand why they do it and can’t blame them.

        I do have battery storage just for electronic devices during blackouts. I definitely agree the market will increase the capabilities of battery backups, but I think it’ll be a while before real 1:1 battery equivalents to gas generators based on cost and capabilities are offered.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    You may have noticed, home energy storage units are increasing in capabilities in a similar way to what we have seen in hard drive storage, or processor speed.

    The grid attacks and the weather-related blackouts are also driving fossil-fueled generators, too. (I bought several new gasoline-powered generators for my family in NOLA post-Ida, plus a whole bunch of carbon monoxide detectors for them to distribute to other people with diesel/propane/gasoline-fueled generators.)

    Maintaining and running the fueled generators is a big hassle compared to these new storage options, so I’d expect people to get them for their parents and grandparents for Christmas as a safer and quieter and easier (if not as powerful) alternative.

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