Can Solar City / Tesla Come up with Energy Storage in the Cloud?

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Why Not? Imagine: an aggregate and manage distributed energy storage from strategic facilities (sites) around the country using their batteries in mass arrays.

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Imagine: Home Owners would pay $40-$50/month (depending upon the area and availability) and when the power goes down, they can pull from this huge energy storage site from Tesla/Solar City for a specify amount of time (say between 8-48 hours) to power their houses (refrigerators, appliances, computers, etc.) while waiting for the main grid to come back up. Good in theory and hypothetical aspirations. Can it be done? Possibly…but infrastructure to do this must be in place and energy storage facilities might have to strike partnership deals with the country’s power providers.

Here is the main issue. Please note that I’m not too technical when it comes to the solar and power infrastructure. I do have solar panels and pay next to nothing to the power company / per month. The excess power I generate off my solar panels I charge back to the grid (power company). The problem is when the grid is down during a power outage, homeowners must be disconnected (even if they have solar panels) leaving unused solar electricity sitting on the roof. As a safety feature within generic grid-tied systems, when the grid is down, users can neither sell energy back to the utility, nor supply their homes or businesses with power per the UL-1741 safety requirement.

For homeowners that want to try to store energy on their own home site (via solar or car batteries) there is an upgrade for these types of systems called AC coupling that enables one to store energy for use during power outages and emergencies. AC coupling added to a simple grid-tied system converts it to a grid-interactive or Grid/Hybrid type system, providing grid-tied savings when the grid is up and off-grid independence and security when it is down or compromised. Solar City is working and testing these system and plan to roll it out in the future to its customers. It’s an added additional revenue stream for them. Makes perfect sense. Solar City/Tesla would install a battery pack (9-kilowatt, 18-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery) inside the garage in a fireproof container and value-add their solar service. This would allow their customers a back up system via AC coupling to keep their appliances and much needed refrigeration needs running for up to 24 hours.

The problem is cost. From my research, one can obtain solar batteries anywhere from $200-$1500. Depending on the size of the house, a single solar battery would not even come close to powering it for an 8-25 hour period. You would need to build an array of these batteries and can be quite expensive. Also, include the cost of a complete AC coupling system which may run as much as $8,000-$9,000 (not including batteries). If you lease a system that has AC coupling, the cost would be zero. I do believe most new Solar Panels systems that are leased from the major Solar companies like Solar City have AC Coupling built in via SMA Sunny Island. Side note: in my research, Germany is way ahead in the self-consumption/home energy management systems.

What if you if don’t have solar panels and a local home battery backup system to power your house in case of emergency power outage? This is where the idea of energy storage “in the cloud” comes in. Tesla/Solar City or the other big solar power companies could provide this service to homes and businesses via their energy storage facilities. A homeowner would pay a small payment per month and rent/lease a part of their backup battery system. When the power grid goes down, the energy cloud system would push their allotment of which they pay (maybe anywhere from 8-48 hours backup tiers) via the power line. The energy cloud providers may have to partner with the Power Company to use these lines to push back power. Possibly pay them a royalty for using the existing infrastructure. The energy cloud could use each smart meter installed at the homeowners house or business to direct their power. I’m sure there will need to be more infrastructure to take place at the home as well as the power company for this to be even viable, but anything is possible. As battery costs and storage in the future will decrease, will we see this “Energy Storage” in the Cloud just like it’s taking over computing and big data?

This idea and concept could be the next big platform in the energy business.

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