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SolarCity CTO Peter Rive Talks Solar Power+Energy Storage

The country’s largest residential solar installer and financier, SolarCity, will eventually begin offering a system that includes storage as its “basic offering,” according to the company’s co-founder and CTO Peter Rive.

Unsurprisingly, these systems would very likely make use of battery-based energy storage technology provided by SolarCity’s sister organization Tesla Motors.


The interesting — but also rather unsurprising — comments were made by Rive at the recent Energy Storage North America conference. Rive made a point of noting, though, that such a solar+storage combination wouldn’t likely “look that much different for the customer” — but that the customer would benefit as they would “have a little backup power.”

When asked what he thought of the possibility of “the economics of consumers defecting from the grid,” Rive noted: “I hope it doesn’t happen. I don’t think it makes sense for someone to remove themselves from the grid. If you think about the load on a circuit as opposed to an individual home, an average home on a circuit is maybe 3 kW peak. But you may find that any given home will go up to 10 kW at any given time. […] That means the battery would have to be sized to 10 kW.”

He added: “It’s fundamentally way more expensive to remove a home off the grid — and you just lose the benefits of the network that currently exists. […] It would be the consequence of really bad policy and economic decision-making for us to arrive at a situation where people are motivated to do that. From a pure engineering perspective, I think it makes most sense for the battery to be operated by the utility and to be an asset of the utility.”

Hmm. While that makes some sense, there no denying that there are other reasons for preferring to be entirely off-grid, and relatively in charge of your own electricity needs. Anyways. Onward with the interview.


Amongst a number of other topics (those interested can find them discussed at Greentech Media), I think the most interesting one discussed was the company’s expansion into manufacturing. On that subject, Rive noted that the recent move towards manufacturing (see: What The SolarCity Silevo Acquisition Could Mean) has actually kept him up some nights, contemplating the future.

“We have a really exciting technology company that we acquired recently to manufacture what I consider some of the best solar panels on the planet.”

Rive noted that Silevo’s “hybrid crystalline-silicon and thin-film cells will hit 24% efficiency when the factory is up and running,” and that, “in some situations, due to its bifacial nature, the cell will be capable of 26%.”

Hmm. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how things pan out for the company in the future. Worth watching the stock price as well I’d say.

Image Credit: SolarCity

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James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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