Elon Musk Unveils Solar Roofs, Powerwall 2
At the end of October, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and chairman of SolarCity, introduced highly anticipated solar roof tiles and the newest Powerwall energy storage product during an event at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. The joint Tesla/SolarCity launch event came as the entrepreneur continued to make his case for Tesla’s proposed acquisition of SolarCity, which as of press time, shareholders have not yet voted on.
During the presentation, Musk reiterated his vision for houses with rooftop solar and integrated energy storage that can power both the homes and Tesla electric vehicles parked in their garages.
“People think of Tesla as an electric car company, but really the whole purpose of Tesla was to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy,” he said, calling the integration of the clean energy products an “obvious three-part solution.”
Although typical residential solar installations include racking and solar panels attached to a rooftop, the new Tesla/SolarCity solar tiles will essentially serve as the roof itself. The solar tiles certainly aren’t the first building-integrated photovoltaic products introduced to the market, but the Tesla/SolarCity event garnered a lot of media and public attention.
Musk showed off some homes fitted with the Tesla/SolarCity solar tiles, which are made of tempered glass and have built-in solar cells that generate electricity. He said the sleek glass tiles are “a lot tougher” and would last “a lot longer” than conventional roof tiles, and they can be installed on new houses or retrofitted on old homes. The new Tesla/SolarCity products are shaped like regular roof tiles, and Musk introduced four designs, including Tuscan, slate, textured and smooth glass tiles.
“The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than a normal roof, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation, and actually have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity,” he said. “Why would you buy anything else?”
The presentation was brief and didn’t offer many more details, including the fate of the solar tiles should the Tesla/SolarCity deal not go forward. However, Musk also introduced the newest version of Tesla’s home energy storage product, the Powerwall 2. He said the Powerwall 2 is “a big step above” its predecessor, offering twice as much power as the Powerwall 1. Providing 14 kWh of energy storage and 7 kW of power output, the next-gen home energy storage product is expected to cost $5,500.
The entrepreneur also noted the earlier launch of Tesla’s latest utility-scale energy storage product, the Powerpack 2. Musk said the Powerpack 2 similarly doubles the power of the previous generation, offering 210 kWh/50 kW, and he added, “This can scale to unlimited size.”
Utility Uses Microgrid To Reduce Peak Demand
Vermont-based Green Mountain Power (GMP) has announced the utility is using its Stafford Hill Solar Farm, a microgrid that combines 2 MW of solar panels with 3.4 MWh of battery storage, to reduce peak power usage and save customers money.
In fact, GMP notes it realized substantial savings when it hit its annual peak on Aug. 12, during which the weather was nearly 90°F. The utility says it was able to reduce its overall energy demand by using both the solar generated at Stafford Hill and all of the energy stored in the batteries during the hour that New England hit its annual peak. According to GMP, utilities in the region are charged year-round according to the percent they contribute to the New England peak during that hour, so by significantly reducing GMP’s peak use during that hour, the Stafford Hill project saved customers approximately $200,000.
Located in Rutland and completed in the spring, Stafford Hill was a stand-out project from the get-go for two distinct reasons: It is located on a capped landfill, and its battery storage is used to power an emergency shelter at Rutland High School. Now, GMP says the utility is taking the project a step further.
“When we combine solar and battery storage, it opens a whole world of possibilities for our customers, and reducing peak demand – saving $200,000 in just one hour – is one example of how we’re delivering on our promise to customers,” says Mary Powell, president and CEO of GMP. “This is the future of energy, and it’s never been more exciting.”
According to GMP, Stafford Hill is also providing fast-acting power when the grid needs it as renewable energy fluctuates during the day and night, and this is another way the project lowers costs for customers.
Mercedes-Benz Energy Storage Heads To The U.S.
Germany-based Mercedes-Benz is bringing its stationary energy storage business to the U.S. To handle the expansion, parent company Daimler AG has established a new unit, Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas LLC, which will assume the development and sales of the storage systems for residential, commercial and utility applications for the North American market. Furthermore, Daimler has picked up Boris von Bormann, former CEO of energy storage company sonnen, to lead the new branch.
“Mercedes-Benz Energy is uniquely positioned to not only offer solutions to the energy and storage market that will help utilities, businesses and homeowners save costs and solve needs, but also combine the advantages of electric vehicles and energy solutions into one holistic platform,” says von Bormann.
This follows the previous founding of Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH in Germany earlier this year, and Daimler says system production will remain the core expertise of wholly owned subsidiary Deutsche ACCUMOTIVE GmbH & Co. KG. The company adds that the Mercedes-Benz storage units are based on the same technology Daimler has been using in electric and hybrid vehicles since 2012.
Working in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America in Sunnyvale, Calif., Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas will bring initial product offerings to the U.S. in early 2017, beginning with the launch of a modular residential product. Each battery module has an energy content of 2.5 kWh that can be combined up to 20 kWh and used in various applications, such as backup power and solar self-consumption. Daimler says these will be sold through various channel partners, and the systems will be followed by larger storage systems for commercial and industrial customers. Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas will work directly with a diverse customer base to offer tailored solutions starting later in 2017, Daimler adds. Further details, including product pricing, were not disclosed.
Arcadia Launches Nationwide Community Solar Program
Arcadia Power, an online renewable energy company, has announced a nationwide community solar platform that it says gives people around the U.S. the opportunity to support solar energy and get savings on their bills – no matter where they live.
According to the company, its technology platform can connect solar panel production from a remote site directly to a customer’s power bill and does not require any additional equipment or installation on a customer’s home. Available in all 50 states, the community solar product is ideal for those who live in apartments, have shaded roofs or don’t want to be locked down in a 20-year agreement, adds Arcadia.
Customers can choose from a range of projects, pay an upfront solar subscription fee, and every month during the term receive savings on their utility bills. Arcadia Power says the program runs on a software platform that integrates with over 100 utility billing systems nationwide, and current available projects include solar installations in California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.