SolarCity, the large solar installer best known for its leasing model, turned in disappointing earnings results from Q1 2016, lowered expectations in its outlook for the next quarter and has caused a panic among investors and a slew of sky-is-falling analysis from financial onlookers. Seems like nothing has gone right (except maybe this deal) since Nevada’s controversial decision to kill its solar rooftop industry.
Maybe all of the above forced an identity crisis of sorts because the company announced a new set of services for utility and grid operators, which is obviously a departure from its bread and butter residential work. SolarCity’s new services include installation, financing, and consulting services for utility-scale solar and energy storage resource development, as well as advanced controls for demand response, distributed energy resources, and aggregated grid services. Here is the rundown:
Utility-Scale Solar – Utilities looking for additional generation capacity, or a solution to meet renewable portfolio standards and other environmental mandates, can leverage turn-key delivery of solar power via wholesale contracts and direct grid tied solar power systems. SolarCity manages the entire process from financing and design to installation, advanced controls and optimization, and system maintenance. Utilizing solar energy typically costs far less than building traditional generation assets, and solar energy rates are locked in for years into the future, protecting the utility and customers from volatile fuel prices.
Dispatchable Utility-Scale Energy Storage – As a complement to solar power, SolarCity now offers firm and dispatchable utility-scale storage solutions. Our capacity services offering combines solar and energy storage to intelligently take advantage of affordable solar power when it’s needed most. Together, solar and storage can help utilities avoid capacity charges and manage peak load more cost effectively than traditional fossil fuel-based solutions.
Distributed Energy Solutions – SolarCity’s portfolios of aggregated distributed energy resources (DERs) offer grid planners and operators increased flexibility and resiliency as they work to modernize the grid. DER portfolios can provide grid services such as dynamic capacity and peak shaving, flexible ramping, frequency regulation, voltage and reactive power support, grid visibility and more, all managed through SolarCity’s software and control platform. In addition, DER portfolios can offer increased reliability and resiliency by deploying energy storage to provide backup power during routine outages.
Several utilities have already begun to use SolarCity’s services. Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) previously worked with SolarCity to install a 12 MW (AC) utility-scale solar array, and is currently implementing a solar and storage facility that will boast a 13 MW (AC) solar array and 52 MWh battery system. Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative(CMEEC) is in the process of leveraging SolarCity to deploy 13 megawatts (AC) of solar coupled with 6 megawatt-hours of battery storage across a portfolio of sites throughout Connecticut. Additionally, Southern California Edison has partnered with SolarCity in a pilot to demonstrate the value of aggregated DER portfolios. SolarCity is working with several additional utilities to utilize DERs for grid services as well.