New funding for battery projects suggests the future of solar rests in storage

By Arman Kazemi

April 30, 2015

U.S. energy provider Solar City has just launched a fund that could finance over $1 billion in commercial-scale solar energy infrastructure.

The fund, backed by substantial financing from long-time partner Credit Suisse, is using the money to subsidize solar installations in businesses, schools and other public institutions throughout the U.S.

While the project was formally announced last week, new installations have already started benefitting from the financing stream. According to the announcement, the fund is believed to be the largest of its kind and is expected to account for over 300 megawatts of commercial solar projects by 2017.

“SolarCity has installed more than 1,800 commercial solar projects in 21 states,” says company C      FO Brad Buss, including a $200 million financing facility begun in January of this year, also with Credit Suisse. “We’ve barely scratched the surface of the addressable market,” according to Buss.

This new round of funding is geared primarily towards projects that help showcase newly developed SolarCity technologies, including their new intelligent battery storage system, This storage system regulates the accumulation and release of stored power according to peak demand for the purpose of increasing efficiency and reducing utility costs. 

Mastering storage efficiency is widely regarded as the next frontier in the mainstream adoption of renewable technologies. Interest in energy storage is continuing to grow, as the highly anticipated announcement of Tesla Motor’s new battery system shows.

Originally developed to equip its line of fully electric vehicles, Tesla has recently experimented with commercial and residential storage systems, starting with 11 Walmart retail locations in California.

Smart storage technologies don’t just belong to sun-happy California, however. As previously reported, homegrown enterprises in British Columbia are also working on large-scale battery systems. Vancouver’s ZincNyx, for example, is developing a flow battery that uses electrolytes stored in a liquid that would allow for exponential increases in storage capacity at a relatively low cost.

B.C. Hydro has also tested out large-scale power storage in rural communities, helping provide supplementary support during blackouts and peak demand periods.

“Energy storage on the grid will grow rapidly in combination with renewables,” says Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel. “Eventually you’re going to have a 100 percent battery electric vehicle fleet, working in tandem with an almost 100 percent renewable electric utility grid full of solar and wind.”



Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo