SolarCity Launches Its California Energy Storage + Solar Offering

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Originally published on Solar Love.

When Tesla announced the Powerwall, its home energy storage product, it was stated that SolarCity* would be offering the Powerwall to its customers in Hawaii and California. However, details were slim.

SolarCity_Solar NewHome Community_smallNow, SolarCity has officially announced “energy storage for new homes and a special low, fixed-rate solar power offering for California homebuilders and their buyers.”

The SolarCity Homebuilder Program, launched in 2011, is now taking orders for the storage product. Here are some more details:

“The new energy storage service, in conjunction with solar power, includes the Tesla Powerwall battery pack, advanced hybrid inverter, monitoring and control systems and a warranty and service agreement. While battery backup is the primary application, depending on utility service territory, SolarCity’s management system may in the future enable the Powerwall to be configured for a broad range of uses including time-of-use shifting and grid response.”

The financing is, of course, part of the offering. SolarCity’s big selling point to most of its customers is that it allows them to go solar for little or no money down (without getting a loan) and then pay monthly less than they’d pay the utility. There’s plenty of criticism out there that customers would save more by getting a solar loan, but that’s certainly not always the case, and SolarCity’s key selling points (and selling tactics) have made it far and away the home solar power leader in the United States. This is the heart of SolarCity’s newest offering as well.

SolarCity’s Homebuilder Program now offers solar energy through homebuilder partners at a cost equivalent to the lowest standard residential electricity rates of California’s largest utilities. This new program provides the benefits of solar energy at no upfront cost to the builder or homebuyer. It also allows new homebuyers who are customers of California’s largest utilities to lock in a fixed solar energy rate for the next 20 years at the lowest standard, tier 1 rate their utility offers at signing.

SolarCity makes it possible for homebuilders to allow many buyers to go solar with no upfront cost and no escalator on annual solar energy costs. The program can provide homeowners in California with security from rising utility rates and significant savings with solar power for the next two decades.

*Full Disclosure: I’m long SCTY.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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22 thoughts on “SolarCity Launches Its California Energy Storage + Solar Offering

  • That’s interesting. Emergency backup probably requires a separate circuit for emergency loads, so there is some electrical work required, explaining higher installation costs. The announcement indicates that time shifted loads and services are not yet a done deal. No word on off grid either. Sounds like development work is needed.
    Might look for a company acquisition or collaboration to,solve that problems.

  • It’s nice they aim exactly at utility rates to make the everyday person have an easily comprehendible option. Parity is on it’s way, let’s hope enough people are aware, especially in mid-east to south-east california.

  • SolarCity’s aim is for you to pay them instead of your electric utility companies. They don’t really pass on the savings of wonderful technology to you. They pocket the big difference for a huge profit, and that is what companies are here for. They of course would give you a pittance of a savings, not the potentially enormous ones. Since you don’t have money to pay up front, then their banks will simply siphon off the money saved from technology.

    If the likes of SolarCity will not continue to pass on the huge savings from technology to their customers, and instead pocket the huge savings as profit, the adoption rate of these renewables to save the planet would be slower. We need rapid adoption, so please Solar City, if you can lower your prices all the more, so much the better.

    • It would be great SolarCity started offering their product prices via internet forms. Where you could specify you wanted ground mounted panels, so much backup, etc.. However I think you are right. They are currently cherry picking the market. Installing in places where the entire package pays for itself in a few years yet they go on collecting utility prices forever. I think normal folk are best served by getting quotes from small local businesses rather than the Walmart of RE.

      • You can pay a one-time up-front fee with Solar City if you prefer to structure your contract that way.

        • Rumor has it they are not at all competitive.

          • Check it out, don’t just go by rumor. Get a few bids & see if they’re competitive. They were quite competitive when I talked with them. There are a lot of Solar City haters out there who will say things like “they are not competitive” without doing their due diligence.

          • As the largest (or second largest) installer off home PV in the country, they must be competitive.

            But definitely buying the panels outright is a much better deal for homeowners.

            I really can’t wait for the day when all new homes come built with PV installed. Bundeling the cost of PV into the mortgage must be the most cost effective way to finance solar/battery.

          • “Bundeling the cost of PV into the mortgage must be the most cost effective way to finance solar/battery.” . . . I don’t understand why people don’t just take out home equity loans to buy solar PV and then pay the installer with a loan.

          • In the US one can get a FHA (Federal Housing Authority) loan for solar ( as well for insulation, , duct sealing, doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, and geothermal systems.

            No money down, reasonable rate, 20 years, fairly easy to qualify.


          • I’m sure we will see more and more people taking out a loan to pay for PV instead of using a lease. Actually banks should love financing home PV. From there perspective financing a stationary object, that sits on a house and pays for it self, must be a safe investment. It will just take time to convince people that Solar is cost effective and not just some toy for Californian eco nuts and the rich. I’m willing to bet if you did a national poll asking people if solar is cost effective the majority would say no. It takes time to change public perception to match up with reality.

      • It is very difficult to do that with residential solar PV. Pretty much every house is unique. Even homes with identical home plans can be different because of their orientation to the sun, trees, other buildings, etc.

        • Sure. A simple website though with picklists and options though would give a good enough idea of costs. I don’t see it taking more than a day to write up. Yet they don’t do it. Makes me wonder why.

    • Well, they are in business to make money. But they are shifting away from the lease market to the loan market so your statement is not completely accurate. They’ll sell a system to you for cash, they arrange a loan, or they’ll provide a lease. Your pick. My advice is to install yourself, it is easy with microinverters.

    • We also do not know what solar panels to install.

      SolarCity takes the technological and warranty risk.

  • Almost. Now what about that storage? Is it connected to form a cloud battery?
    The storage does not belong to the customer so they could cycle it as often as they want to gain the maximal potential.

    Decentralised, utility owned storage…

    • “decentralised, utility owned storage…”
      and paid for by the customer! crazy when you think about it but it’s really a great solution on both fronts. customer gets battery backup and eventually peak rate shaving capability. utility gets a more stable consumption/production curve from the consumer and a distributed, utility scale peak load storage battery that’s localized to those who need power (your neighbors).

      • In the ent the customer is paying for everything. When both can save some in the long run I don’t see any reason why utilities wouldn’t pay to install a battery at the point of use, get to save on renting or buying space and use that batteries to make even more profit.

        I doubt that batteries do already make sense for homes on their own…not in Germany with relatively low rates and a very good grid.

        • The utility would never install batteries in houses…it’s much cheaper to install a single container full of them at each hub than to plan/build/install/manage individual units in each house.

          • I would think someone will do this before utilities jump in and install distributed batteries in their system.

          • I suspect storeage is going to be owned mainly by utilities or large companies that “sell storage”. Buying in large quantities gets one much better prices and installing large amounts in a single place saves labor and maintenance costs.

            I’ve been reading the Jacobson et al. paper about the best mix of renewables for each of the 50 states. One thing that is very interesting is that the national total works out to 38.4% solar, and most of that (30.7%) is utility scale with residential and commercial installations providing only 7.7% of total US energy.


            Cost, as far as I can tell, is the driver. The same is likely to hold for storage. Why would utilities pay more for generation or storage and give away some of the profits when they can own it themselves?

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