Tool around in a Tesla Roadster with the top down, and the sun can be a good friend. Now, Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk is finding an even better use for it.

Musk, who's also chairman of home solar-panel installer SolarCity, is joining the technologies of the two companies to create solar-powered rooftop energy-storage systems that would make the two companies eligible to receive rebates from the state of California, GigaOm reports. The systems would combine Tesla's lithium-ion battery packs with SolarCity's photovoltaic systems.

The two companies have filed 70 applications for systems under the California Public Utility Commission's (CPUC) Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) that would supply energy in areas served by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). The CPUC had previously awarded the two companies $1.8 million for their research on the energy-storage system now being proposed.

SolarCity was founded in 2006 and says it has more than 30,000 projects either completed or in the process throughout states such as California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.


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  • 30 Comments
      Tweaker
      • 2 Years Ago
      Absolutely, this is worth pursuing. Many would love to become independent of their power company and price fluctuations and not all regions have cheaper night rates. Also imagine a world with no more whining about the supposed higher emissions of an electric plant from the ignorant. The off-grid crowd would jump on this ( I am one). I have a house now rented that has run on batteries for over 20 years. Lead acids, need replacing every 7 years, cost ~ $2,000. I have another I live in on-grid that I have often wished I could store my own power. Who really loves their power company? Houses would be but a small part of this though.
        sirvixisvexed
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Tweaker
        $23.81 a month on lead acid, not bad! Thanks for sharing personal numbers, very inspirational.
      Davey Hiltz
      • 1 Month Ago
      That is smart of them to start a solar powered storage system. I know they've been working on the 'pad' technology to simply pull on the mat and it charges the car for you. It's smart of them to keep investing in such good technology. If I ever make that good of a living, I would get a Tesla. http://www.getepicstorage.com
      • 2 Years Ago
      If you're interested in Solar feel free to email me for a free consultation and quote at csears@solarcity.com As far as battery backup goes, keep in mind there are many benefits you would still receive being on grid. 1.) Not effected by power outages 2.) Cleaner energy supply flowing into the home preventing power surges and normal disruptions (brown outs) from the grid 3.) The ability to save money by switching to a Time of Use rate plan (you pay more during business hours and less in the early morning and evening) 4.) Storage for a PV system California and Hawaii have the highest energy costs in the country. By simply storing your energy and using what you need from the battery backup during the day you can receive low cost energy in the evening. Combined with a PV system you can sell back the energy at high cost on peak hours, charge the batteries in the evening like you would an EV, and then sell it back at higher rates during the day. Solar combined with a battery backup is not only environmentally green, but it's also very financially green if you work with the right company. Best, Chris Chris Sears | Senior Energy Consultant | csears@solarcity.com | www.solarcity.com
      Nick
      • 2 Years Ago
      No one else out there puts as much effort into cleaning energy and transportation than Elon Musk. Imagine if every billionnaire was this dedicated?
        Ford Future
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        Exxon would be selling Wind Power on off shore platforms all along the US coast, the great lakes region. The Koch Brothers would have built a 10 Billion Dollar Solar Panel Factory in WI, and flooded the market with cheap US made Solar power. Shipping would be back to high tech sail. And we would be no where near 390 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere. Wow. Nice dream.
      PeterScott
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can see this if you are off grid, but if you are on grid why bother? Many places have agreements to buy the excess power during the day when demand and rates are higher, and you can buy it back at night when it is cheaper to charge your EV. Also lithium doesn't seem like the best kind of battery for large amounts of stationary storage. This Liquid metal battery seems to have potential for grid storage on a large scale. http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/40253/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Sddb0Khx0yA#! They don't have the durability studies yet, but this appears like it should have an extremely long cycle life since there are no separators to degrade, all the electrodes operate in a molten state, so again physical structure degradation seems irrelevant.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PeterScott
        This is not going to be for homes. SolarCity also does major commercial clients too. Is good for hospitals and Silicon Valley IT companies with large servers banks. It's like a huge battery backup that improves reliability. Also, when companies have a LARGE power bill because they use so much during the day, and almost none at night... this is great to store cheaper night time, off-peak rated power to use during the day. For some places the difference is HUGE (14 cents vs. 4 cents). Totally worth it if you can afford enough storage to last 8 hours.
          PeterScott
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          It says residential and commercial customers. I just don't see a big demand for this from Grid Users. Even if there was, I don't see Lithium as the right technology. Though that liquid battery may be years away. There are Molten Sodium batteries that are better fit for Grid leveling.
          PeterScott
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Exactly how can a business sell a $5000+ battery pack for $10/month? That wouldn't even cover the interest on the loan.
          JakeY
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          It's actually for homes. At $10/month for a 10kWh system, it's very affordable for what you get and most people would save a lot of money with this kind of system (vs buying/selling electricity).
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PeterScott
        Oops, I didn't read. I assumed they would get grid power and not be getting from the PV cells. So these batteries would be to smooth out the intermittency of the PV cells. As clouds pass by, most Solar users just pull a bit more from the grid to make up for it. But even that could be expensive for some companies. Battery storage will help make semi-off-grid users into fully off-grid users.
      DadioBob
      • 2 Years Ago
      I signed up with Solar City for this program. I have a basic home solar set up providing approx 90% of elev for my home and am tied into the grid. I see a few benefits of getting battery backup under thos prpgram even though I am not "off grid". 1 - Battery back up when grid down such as storms. 2 - low prive to me due to program ($10 mo). 3 - experience and data collection in use of batteries for both myself and solar/battery companies. PS. Sorry for any typos. I am posting from phone and cant type on these little keyboards :-)
      Kevin Gregerson
      • 2 Years Ago
      This idea is actually quite on the brilliant side. It has the capacity to smooth out the power fluctuations of a typical grid by essentially creating a distributed grid where power is onsite next to where its needed rather than having to draw it from hundreds of miles away creating a drop in voltage.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Kevin Gregerson
        Yep. Having distributed grid monitoring and small distributed reserves can indeed allow small amounts of power to be added locally for frequency regulation instead of large amounts of power throw onto the system from a centralized power source. Smart meters & small battery systems have made the grid more energy efficient.
      Marco Polo
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Tool around in a Tesla Roadster with the top down, and the sun can be a good friend. Now, Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk is finding an even better use for it." "SolarCity was founded in 2006 and says it has more than 30,000 projects either completed or in the process throughout states such as California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Texas. " Like most EV enthusiasts over the years, I have admired Elon Musk's acumen and determination to build Tesla and his other businesses. However, Danny Kings article reads like a Tesla/Solar City paid Advertorial ! (even has a "Comment" from a Solar city salesman) ! Before all the Solar/Tesla fans howl, just think this is not news, Nissan has had the same offer for a while now. My objection to this type of story, is not because there's anything wrong with Tesla, or Solar City products, but this advertorial style of article it tolerated for products you like, where will it stop?
        Maddoxx
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Ahhh Mr Polo now you see my gripe with AOL, huffington post and autoblog. It isn't just news anymore it's all advertisements for their products and politics.
      paulwesterberg
      • 2 Years Ago
      Rooftop solar energy should put its power into the grid because its production helps to alleviate peak grid demand generated by daytime industry and air conditioning. Solar energy storage for large scale installations should be done using solar concentrators with molten salt and thermal storage. Pumped water storage is already used to balance generation and grid demand.
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah, electricity storage is not very good these days. Batteries are needed for mobile things but for stationary storage, there are not many good options. Pumped water, pressurized air, fly-wheels, and batteries are what we have but none are very good. Best to just put the electricity on the grid and 'store' the energy by using less fuel at a generation plant.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Some batteries are well suited for stationary applications. Low power and energy density by weight and volume... so lower cost... but since you can really pack a small room with lots of batteries... the cycle life is not a problem either.
      sirvixisvexed
      • 2 Years Ago
      Does anyone know more about kinetic energy storage from solar, like that recent article about the ski-lift style rock mover? I know scientists and physicists have known about kinetic energy storage for hundreds of years, but it seems like such a cleaner and more sustainable way to store electrical energy. Whether it's pumping water uphill and then letting it spin a generator as it goes downhill, or having like a 20 foot tall, 8 foot diameter metal cylinder with a several ton weight in the middle that rises to store energy, and falls to use it; or even tensing up large rubber bands, or compressing air. A small chemical battery might be needed as a little bit of a buffer, but kinetic storage seems better than strictly chemical battery storage for the ENTIRE amount you need (unless the entire system HAS to go on your roof). If there's companies who have already developed home solar installation, home hydrogen generation, home geothermal units, where are the turn-key home kinetic systems? They'd actually probably cost more than "one round" of chemical batteries, but would have like a 50-100 year life? Just thinking out loud really...
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @sirvixisvexed
        I believe that should be called potential energy storage, or gravity storage. Kinetic energy storage would be Flywheel type systems, where the mass is moving (kinetic) on a maglev bearing in a vacuum. so not much loss. Much better than using lots of land area for pumped storage. But very expensive since steel flywheels would tear itself apart at high rpm, so carbon fiber is used.
        Rob Mahrt
        • 2 Years Ago
        @sirvixisvexed
        From what I read the storage of energy by pumping water up hill and then later releasing it to turn a wheel as you mentioned is way too inefficient to be used in large scale energy storage.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rob Mahrt
          It is inefficient. But that said, it is still one of the better systems available for energy storage on a cost basis. If you have a lot of excess energy available, it is better to have an inefficient system than no system at all.
          paulwesterberg
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rob Mahrt
          Actually pumped water storage is one of the better systems we have it is 80% efficient.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @sirvixisvexed
        'The lesson is that gravitational storage is incredibly weak. A volume of water the size of our bedroom raised even 10 m above our home in a precarious threat to the neighbors would store 0.625 kWh. That’s enough for 30 minutes of typical household electricity consumption. You’ll forgive me if I ignore efficiency losses. It’s not even worth the effort. It’s over.' http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8405 The bottom line is that we can manage storage to cover overnight for solar, but if the problem is that the sun is too weak to supply our needs in winter, there is no way that storage can compensate. The same applies to wind, where at a push lulls and storms can be coped with, although wind is a truly lousy energy resource, as the difference between a calm and a gale is huge, but again there is no way of using storage to cover calms of a week or more. In practise other than to cover peaks and troughs, which can be smoothed a bit, renewables are dependent on the burn of gas and coal to supply at least 70% of total energy when you have a lot of renewables, as they are the only things which can be ramped up and down to cover them.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Hi sirvex: Yep, that is about the size of it! The problem in energy discussions are those of scale issues. Wind is a perfectly good resource, in a very limited way in particular areas with high wind. At any level above around 2% of the grid it causes more trouble than it is worth, most places, and only a hidden network of subsidies and mandates together with a visceral aversion to nuclear gets it built. In the same way solar is a fine, if expensive resource, in the tropics and perhaps when the costs come down for peak shaving in places like Arizona. It is complete nonsense in northerly latitudes where there is not enough sunshine in the winter to help. The Germans have thrown away around 136 billion Euros so far to generate 0.3% of their energy from solar. It is a scam that far north. And there is no way of adding another absurdity, really large mass storage of energy, to make up for the absurdities of renewables. Solar and wind can both be useful at the margins, but touting them as a panacea causes immense loss, and also destruction of the environment.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Sure, you can use it, and gravitational storage is used, mainly where there happens to be a handy mountain. You seem to have missed the bit where I said that storage is practical for smoothing the load. It helps if you read what is said! You will also find that the link I gave deals extensively and numerically with energy storage alternatives, including flywheels, compressed air, batteries and so on. As I perfectly plainly indicated you can smooth peaks and troughs, store energy overnight etc, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper to generate really large quantities of energy when needed rather than store it with any system we are remotely close to being able to build economically. The exception to that may be the production of hydrogen from nuclear energy, which is cheaper than doing it when you happen to have surplus renewables as it amortises the equipment 24/7. It is still many times cheaper to generate electricity at the time though, due to the cost of the electrolysis equipment and the energy losses.
          sirvixisvexed
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Dave, thanks for the link, good hard numbers and real physics. Ok so I did a little math. A 10x10 foot solid iron block @ 450 lbs per square foot would weigh 45,000 lbs or 20,400 kilos So let's raise that iron block 10 M or 30 feet. E(or J for Joules = M(20,400) G(10) H(10) So 2,040,000 joules or only enough electricity for 188.88 AA batteries is stored from a 10x10 foot BLOCK OF FREAKING IRON going up 30 feet in the air? Not even ONE kwh? So it would have to go up and down 15 times just to charge a Chevy Volt? LOL. Is my math and interpretation of the final 2,040,000 joules being the stored energy correct? I appreciate my new understanding of centuries old physics formulas I never learned hahaha.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          If it was such a crappy system then the landscape would not be dotted with water towers all across the planet. Water towers make great energy storage systems for powering the water pressure for our water system. We could build water system just with pumps but water towers work great for smoothing out the load, working even when the power goes out, not requiring a complex control system, etc.
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