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PHOTO CAPTION: SolarCity and Tesla are collaborating on energy storage for solar-powered homes.

Tesla Develops Energy Storage Unit for SolarCity Homes

Tesla is using its battery expertise in collaboration with SolarCity to create energy storage units to provide electricity after the sun goes down.

Published: 18-Apr-2012

Electric car company Tesla and solar roof installer SolarCity have quietly been making deals that could one day lead to dozens of sales of battery projects coupled with rooftop solar systems built at both residential and commercial buildings in California. SolarCity confirmed the energy storage plans with me, and the duo have submitted at least 70 applications for projects to attempt to receive rebates from the California Public Utility Commission’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), which provides incentives for distributed energy generation.

Such a system, which SolarCity and Tesla have been researching over the past two years, would couple Tesla’s lithium ion battery packs with SolarCity’s solar photovoltaic systems. Tesla sources small format (laptop-sized) batteries from Asian battery giants like Panasonic and bundles them together into a pack. The batteries connected to a solar rooftop would be able to store the solar energy for use when, say, a cloudy day reduces the power production of the solar panels. Both solar and wind will need to be coupled with energy storage technology to overcome the problem of intermittency.

Applicants for the SGIP program apply with individual utilities in California, and Tesla and SolarCity have applied for 70 applications under PG&E’s SGIP funds. The other California utilities SCE and SDG&E don’t clearly list out applicants for the program. SolarCity’s Director of Communications, Jonathan Bass, tells me that “each project has a separate application,” which shows that there’s a surprising amount of demand from commercial and residential customers within PG&E’s footprint for a battery system connected to a solar roof system. The SGIP program decided to include stand alone energy storage tech last year.

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