SolarCity To Offer Integrated Microgrid System

SolarCity, the largest solar installer and financier in the US, is now offering a fully integrated microgrid system at very competitive prices. A team of engineers led by Peter Rive, SolarCity’s chief technical officer, has suggested the company combine battery storage capability with SolarCity’s expertise in distributed renewables, inverters, energy storage, and control software to create complete, self-contained microgrids. It will use batteries supplied by its close corporate cousin, Tesla, whose Gigafactory will eventually begin producing batteries for home and industrial applications as well as electric cars.

Interconnected micro-grids can provide power for everyday use or emergency backup during power outagesSolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass mentioned to Greentech Media recently that microgrids are ideal for municipalities, remote or island communities, hospitals, and military bases. He said, “any community anywhere in the world vulnerable to power outages and high energy costs” is a potential customer that can be financed with “little to no upfront costs.”

Typically, any organization needing a microgrid has to employ the services of a large global engineering firm, which can cost a lot of money, or piece together the system from individual suppliers and coordinate the project through a consulting firm that may or may not have all the knowledge and expertise needed to make the system function properly.

Bass says SolarCity’s turnkey “microgrid as a service” model is another alternative that “fits into a realistic budget cycle.” He said it is “a straightforward step to create this product” and that it is “extremely affordable.” SolarCity is already working on distributed generation projects with San Jose, Sacramento, and other California cities.

“In addition to providing the software and integration, similar to our other products, we will provide a financing option and O&M,” Bass says. He thinks the SolarCity integrated microgrid will appeal to more international customers. The company has already built a microgrid “at an undisclosed island location,” according to Bass.

Putting together a microgrid, whether for daily use or as an emergency backup system for use during power outages, requires assembling all the solar panels, inverters, batteries, and power control systems need to make the system work properly. A person can find all the parts needed to assemble an automobile from separate sources but, in the end, it us usually better and cheaper to get one from a known manufacturer who can make all the components function together properly.

The SolarCity microgrid is exactly that kind of compete, integrated system. The fact that it costs less than conventional systems is a big plus. The ability to purchase it and finance it from one source just makes the end result that much sweeter.

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writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.