Solar City fights utility

SOURCE:  Ed Wagner (
SUBHEAD: California utility Pacific Gas & Electric stalls on hooking up solar homes to grid.

By David R. Baker on 17 March 2014 for SF Gate -

Image above: Illustrator's idea of solar batteries. From (

[Source's note: We will be facing the same issue in Hawaii very soon, but it will be much worse than on the mainland. When is HECO's criminal, fraudulent behavior going to be stopped by converting it to publicly owned, non-profit utility coops?]

[IB Publisher's note: There is, of course, the issue of cos, but if a utility customer is adding their own battery storage to a photovoltaic system, and they are willing to live with the energy of the sunshine that falls on their roof,  they simply do not need the utility company at all. The problem here arises with leased systems or other payback schemes that rely on selling power back to the utilities when they don't need it, or it isn't profitable.]

For more than two years, SolarCity Corp. has been trying to launch an experiment that could change the way we power our homes.

The San Mateo company has installed battery packs in more than 100 houses throughout California, each pack linked to rooftop solar panels. The lithium-ion batteries, made by Tesla Motors, store electricity from the panels during the day for use at night.

That combination - solar on the roof, batteries in the basement - could one day revolutionize the energy industry, undercutting traditional utility companies.

So the utilities, SolarCity says, are fighting back.

California's big electricity providers are dragging their feet on connecting the batteries to the grid and charging steep fees - nearly $3,700 per customer, in some cases - to do so, according to SolarCity.

"We all know this is a game-changing product," said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, speaking at a recent public forum in which he complained about the delays. "Those in the game don't want to change the game. They really like the existing game."

SolarCity, which made its name leasing solar arrays to homeowners and businesses, quietly started offering batteries to its residential customers in November 2011. More than 500 have signed up so far. Of those, just over 100 have received their battery packs.

But most of them still can't use the batteries.

Only 12 connections

Since the pilot program started, utilities have only connected 12 of those battery systems to the grid, according to SolarCity. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has hooked up 11 customers, while San Diego Gas and Electric Co. has connected one. Southern California Edison has not connected any, even though SolarCity has submitted 10 applications to the utility.

Lee Middleman of Portola Valley has been waiting almost four months.

Longtime SolarCity customers, he and his wife, Donnie, jumped at the chance to add a storage pack when the company started the program. They belong to a community emergency response team and understand the value of being able to generate and store their own electricity if the grid goes down.

"It's a little remote, here, and when the power goes out, it'd be nice to have a backup system," said Middleman, a ceramic artist. "If there's an earthquake, we know Portola Valley is going to be one of the last places PG&E will service, because they're going to start with the more densely populated place first."

But for now, the battery pack, complete with Tesla logo, sits unused. (Tesla CEO Elon Musk chairs SolarCity's board of directors, and Rive is his cousin.) "It seems like they're throwing every possible roadblock in front of this thing to slow it down," Middleman said.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Local storage reduces utility bills 12/6/13
Solar City is offering power-storage systems to commercial customers.

Ea O Ka Aina: KIUC to add more solar PV 10/28/12
KIUC has hired SolarCity, a national leader in clean energy service.

Ea O Ka Aina: Google Invests $280m in PV 6/15/11
Google, in partnership with SolarCity, want to put solar voltaic panels on your roof.

1 comment :

  1. If the utility companies don't want to cooperate with things like hooking up to battery packs, just get off the grid for gosh sakes. You don't need the crooked utilities to make your solar system work which can be done independently. In the long term, only fools would want to stick with the corrupt utility companies. Hey chickens, time to fly the coop.