Though the U.S. installed 30 percent more solar photovoltaics in 2014 than it did in the previous year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, they still only account for 0.4 percent of electricity generated in the United States. Part of the problem is the current state of battery technology, which makes storing electricity generated by renewable energy sources a problem. With Tesla’s upcoming April 30 announcement, the company is expected to introduce a battery that will help homeowners store 10- to 15-kilowatt-hours of energy.
Solar panels absorb light during the day, and power companies buy the excess from homeowners with panels who have no way to store it. But that means that nighttime energy use has to come from another source, typically whatever the local power company uses: nuclear, coal, hydro, etc. A battery that could store the energy the photovoltaics capture during the day would improve the cost-benefit analysis of installing the panels for a typical U.S. home, which uses around 30-kilowatt-hours of electricity per day. While the price of solar energy systems dropped between 12 and 15 percent in 2013, there’s still a ways to go before meeting the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative’s goal of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour for total installation cost.
While the details of the Tesla announcement are still under wraps, the $13,000 batteries may actually be available for lease instead of purchase, according to The Guardian, who got the information from investment analyst Trip Chowdhry. Three-hundred customers of SolarCity, a company of which Tesla CEO Elon Musk is chairman and in which he holds a stake, were able to lease batteries with a 50-percent rebate, thanks to Pacific Gas & Electric. Following a $1,500 initial payment, customers would make $15 monthly payments for 10 years before returning the battery to SolarCity.
Whether or not Tesla decides to stick with this leasing plan when it rolls out the home battery to a wider audience remains to be seen. Stay tuned for more details when the company makes its announcement April 30.