Beast Coast

By SolarCity

May 04, 2015

This film is dedicated to the heartbeat of SolarCity. Thank you crews, for starting your days before most of us wake up. For refusing to listen to those who say we can’t solve the problem. For making us proud to wear the logo. Special thanks to the crews in the Northeast for braving one of the most brutal winters on record to get the job done.  You inspire us all.

A breakthrough in the affordability of Solar Battery Systems

By Peter Rive, SolarCity Co-Founder and CTO

April 30, 2015

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SolarCity’s mission is to remove every obstacle that stands in the way of clean energy. Today we introduced a product that will make serious headway in this effort: fully-integrated and affordable solar battery backup systems for homes, businesses and governmental utilities. These products can provide benefits to the utility grid as a whole and to all consumers of energy.

While the sun provides more energy in the middle of a single day than the planet’s entire population uses in a year, our potential to harness the sun as an energy source has always been held back by intermittency and our inability to access its energy at night. Battery storage will help solve both of these issues, and as soon as solar battery systems are cost-competitive with fossil fuel-based centralized power, I believe the demand for solar energy will eclipse that of fossil energy.

Using Tesla’s suite of batteries for homes and businesses, SolarCity’s fully-installed battery and solar system costs are one-third of what they were a year ago. We expect costs to continue to decline as manufacturing scales, and over the next 5-10 years, these cost reductions will make it feasible to deploy a battery by default with all of our solar power systems.

Batteries distributed at homes across a region can lower the costs of maintaining the grid and new market structures designed to take full advantage of this benefit appear likely in several states. 

Proceedings currently underway, such as the New York REV and California’s More than Smart, seek the creation of effective market structures for distributed clean energy services that will reward utilities for adopting cheaper, cleaner, customer-sited resources. The products that we’re announcing today are the building blocks of these new market structures.

Our customer contract explicitly contemplates the potential of these markets and creates a revenue-sharing opportunity for the customer. For utilities and grid operators, the technology is designed to enable remote-aggregated control of solar battery systems. I urge anyone reading this who is responsible for managing grid operations, and who is interested in procuring capacity, reactive power, or voltage management services deep in the distribution system  to contact us.

I believe the best grid design is one in which utilities embrace distributed energy resources. However, when utilities and regulators impose solar-specific charges on their customers, or burden homeowners with unduly long system interconnection delays, utilities risk mass customer defection from the grid via solar battery systems.

In Hawaii, people are frustrated with utilities for having put a hold on rooftop solar in their territories. We hear often from people seeking a solar battery system that will allow them to sever ties from their utility completely. As I’ve written before, we don’t think this is optimal for the grid. But when the choice is between being grid-connected without solar or being off the grid with rooftop solar and a solar battery system, the choice is clear. As a result, SolarCity plans to offer an off-grid solar battery system to eligible customers in Hawaii beginning in 2016.

It is vital that we advance the technologies that will lead to an affordable, decarbonized grid. The widespread availability of affordable battery storage will unlock the full potential of solar energy to contribute to this effort. I believe that the solar battery systems launched today will result in a record amount of batteries being deployed in the U.S., advancing our goal of ensuring a cleaner future for all.

Learn more about our battery backup service here.

6 simple “spring greening” tips to cut your home’s energy use

By Matt Collister

April 22, 2015

5332163619_69288c45fd_zphoto credit: Kirsty Hall via creative commons / cropped from original

Living greener doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of life’s comforts. Small and simple changes can often make a big impact on your home’s energy use. And, spring is a great time of year to make such changes. 

Here’s a list of six, simple, cost-free things you can do to save energy and live greener this spring and summer.

 

Close your window blinds

Chances are, there’s a great greening opportunity literally hanging around your home. Closing the blinds during the day—particularly on the south and west-facing sides of your home—limits the amount of the sun’s heat getting inside.

Potential impact: Energy savings equivalent to approximately 10 – 15 percent of your summer cooling costs. 

For a few dollars more: Consider adding storm panels, awnings, reflective films and/or shutters to make your windows even more energy efficient.

 

Unplug your stuff

An “energy vampire” is any electrical device that draws power when turned off. Well, guess what? Pretty much anything you plug in is a “vampire.” Take the average cell phone charger. It’ll draw .26 watts even without a phone plugged to it, and 2.24 watts when a fully charged device is connected. Multiply that by all the electronics and appliances left plugged in, and the wasted energy adds up.

Potential impact: Energy savings equivalent to roughly 10 percent of your electrical bill.

For a few dollars more: Consider an eco-friendly power strip, such as the Smart Strip. It’ll automatically cut power to electronics and appliances when they’re not in use.

 

Maintain your air conditioner

One simple task can cut your air conditioner’s energy consumption: clean or replace that dirty filter. Also, make sure vents and returns are clean and free of obstructions. Lastly, check that the condenser (the part of your air conditioner that’s outside) isn’t clogged by leaves or dirt.

Potential impact:  Cleaning or replacing a dirty filter can cut energy use by 4 – 6 percent.

For a few dollars more: Have a certified HVAC technician do an inspection and cleaning of your system at least once a year.

 

Start composting

You’ll save landfill space, cut methane production, and create the perfect fertilizer for your garden. And, you can do it for virtually no cost. The EPA publishes this handy guide to help you get started.

Potential impact: Along with recycling, composting helps you save space in landfills. Compostable materials like food scraps and yard waste make up 20 – 30 percent of what we throw away.

For a few dollars more: Buy a pre-manufactured composting bin at a home store or garden center.

 

Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit

Most home experts agree that 120 degrees is adequate for virtually any household need. Simply dial down the setting on the side of your water heater.

Potential impact: Energy savings equivalent to approximately 15 – 20 percent of your water heating costs.

For a few dollars more: Insulate your tank with a water-heater blanket, available at most home stores.

 

Turn up the thermostat                  

Experiment to find a temperature that works for you. Even a degree or two change can make a significant difference in energy use without sacrificing comfort. A tip: Use ceiling fans to circulate air. It’ll make your rooms feel cooler and more comfortable even at a higher thermostat setting.

Potential impact: Energy savings equivalent to around 25 – 50 percent of your summer cooling costs. Running your air conditioner less will also help extend its life.

For a few dollars more: Install a programmable thermostat, which will automatically keep your house warmer—saving energy—while you’re away. Or, consider stepping up to a Nest thermostat, which can optimize your home’s energy use based on your family’s traffic patterns. Solar City is even partnering with Nest. Starting this summer. we’ll give a Nest to 10,000 new solar customers, helping them maximize their use of clean, solar energy.

So, there you have it. Six things you can start doing today that’ll help you live greener in 2015 and beyond.

 

Making it simple to go green

As America’s largest solar provider, Solar City is powered by the idea of making it simple and affordable to go green. Find out how we’re doing it at solarcity.com.

Insights from the Clean Energy Trends Survey, Part Three

By SolarCity

April 20, 2015

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We recently released our second annual report on clean-energy consumer trends.  Commissioned by SolarCity and Clean Edge, it’s based on a January 2015 survey of 1,400 homeowners by Zogby Analytics.

The report snaps a picture of factors helping push the double-digit growth of clean-energy products and services.

Digging deeply into the data, we found some surprising—and not so surprising—dynamics at work.*  We’ve been releasing these insights in the days leading up to our webinar today, April 20th.  Here’s the third and final round of findings:

Kum-baya? Well, sort of

Ok, it’s a polarized electorate. But Republicans and Democrats (outside of Congress, at least) do agree on some key points related to clean energy.

Fifty percent of all respondents chose solar as the most important energy source for America’s future. Solar was the top choice for both Republicans and Democrats.

We also saw bipartisan support—though not parity—for clean-energy policy. 82 percent of Democrats said they favor federal tax incentives supporting the growth of solar and wind industries. 67 percent Republicans and 72 percent of Independents favor these policies as well.

But don’t expect a political group-hug anytime soon. Motivations for buying clean-energy products and services do vary by party. This is consistent with what we see in national polls.

At 43 percent, Democrats were more likely to say they’d make clean energy purchases to reduce their environmental impact. This compares to 25 percent of Republicans. 

More Republicans than Democrats, however, are motivated by the lower maintenance of clean-energy products—38 percent to 27 percent, respectively.

Even Grumpy Cat approves

Pet ownership—yes, pet ownership—seems to be an indicator of peoples’ attitudes toward clean energy.

Both cat and dog owners said they make clean energy purchases to save money—86 percent and 82 percent, respectively.

However, 40 percent of cat owners said they make clean energy purchases to reduce their environmental impact. This compares to 31 percent of dog owners. Could it be—as suggested here—that introverted, bookish cat owners are more informed when it comes to these issues? (Rest assured, SolarCity’s dog owners do not agree with the headline of the linked article.)

To learn more about the survey, and clean energy trends for 2015, check out the report.

 

*Based on a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error for the survey of 1,400 homeowners is +/- 2.7 percentage points. Subsets have a larger margin of error than the whole data set.  We do not rely on the validity of very small subsets of the data, especially sets smaller than 50 – 75 respondents. At that size subset we can make generalizations, but in these cases the data is more qualitative than quantitative.

Insights from the Clean Energy Trends Survey, Part Two

By SolarCity

April 16, 2015

Generation_1000x600

Participants polled were asked to choose up to two reason for making clean energy purchases.

Last week we released our second annual report on clean-energy consumer trends.  Commissioned by SolarCity and Clean Edge, it’s based on a January 2015 survey of 1,400 homeowners by Zogby Analytics.

The report snaps a picture of factors helping push the double-digit growth of clean-energy products and services.

Digging deeply into the data, we found some surprising—and not so surprising—dynamics at work.*  We’re releasing these insights in the days leading up to our webinar on April 20th.  Here’s the second round of findings:

 

A green gender gap?

Recent research has shown women are “greener” than men. That’s led to speculation that women may view environmentalism as important to protecting their families and themselves. It’s also consistent with our own survey results: 

About 37 percent of women said they buy clean-energy products and services for the chance to reduce their environmental impact. This compares to just 31 percent of men.
 
The same percentage of women and men—82 percent—said they make clean-energy purchases for the chance to save money. 

 

The choice of a not-so new generation

You might think Millennials are the most environmentally-focused generation. Not so fast. According to our survey:

At 41 percent, GenXers (born 1965-1978) were actually the most likely to say they make clean-energy purchases to reduce their environmental impact. They edged out the 38 percent of Millennials (born 1979-1983) who responded to that statement.
 
GenXers were also more likely than Millennials to say they’ve “changed the way they live” to help fight climate change—17 percent to 13 percent, respectively.
 
Seventy-one percent of GenXers said they’d like to install solar panels on their home at some point in the future. This compares to 66 percent of Millennials.

 

However, some of the other questions confirmed generational stereotypes.

Millennials seem more likely to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to driving. They were the most likely to say they’re planning to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle in the next year.

Older generations put more value on the lower maintenance of clean-energy products. Thirty-seven percent of Boomers (born 1946-1964) and 44 percent of Silents (born 1926-1945) said this is a motivator. This compares to just 27 percent of GenXers and 24 percent of Millennials.

Boomers were the most likely of any generation to choose “saving money” as a motivator to buy clean-energy products. However, all generations valued savings.

About 31 percent of Boomers and 41 percent of Silents said they’re unlikely to make a clean-energy related purchase in the next year. This compares to 19 percent of GenXers and 13 percent of Millennials. 

To learn more about the survey, and clean energy trends for 2015, check out the report.

 

*Based on a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error for the survey of 1,400 homeowners is +/- 2.7 percentage points. Subsets have a larger margin of error than the whole data set.  We do not rely on the validity of very small subsets of the data, especially sets smaller than 50 – 75 respondents. At that size subset we can make generalizations, but in these cases the data is more qualitative than quantitative.

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SolarCity's mission is to accelerate the mass adoption of clean energy. Follow solar’s progress here.

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