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SolarCity’s utility and grid services launch includes large-scale storage

SolarCity is also building a thin-film PV manufacturing facility in Buffalo, New York. Image: SolarCity.
SolarCity one of the biggest names in US residential solar, has announced a new set of services targeted at utility and grid operators including the official launch of its grid-scale solar-plus-storage offering.

The PV provider will be branching into installation, financing and consulting services for utility-scale solar as well as expanding its activities in energy storage development. In conjunction, SolarCity will be advancing controls for distributed energy resources (DERs), demand response and aggregated grid services, to form a full network of solar-related activities.

The company said it now offers turnkey delivery of solar power via wholesale contracts and direct grid tied solar power systems, which utilities looking to generate additional capacity can leverage to meet renewable portfolio standards (RPS) or other mandates as desired. The process is wholly managed by SolarCity, including financing, design and installation to optimisation and system maintenance.

On the distributed energy resources front, grid planners and operators have increased flexibility to modernise the grid. SolarCity is now going to design aggregated DER portfolios to address specific grid service needs through dynamic capacity and peak shaving, flexible ramping and spinning reserves, voltage and reactive power support and frequency regulation. These solutions are also supplemented by deploying energy storage which provides backup power to critical loads, thus improving reliability and resiliency during outages. Southern California Edison utility has partnered with SolarCity to pilot these aggregated DER portfolios.

In addition, SolarCity is offering visibility of the grid edge across all of its systems and the software and control platform, GridLogic, allowing customers to monitor and control a significant portion of DERs on their grid.

SolarCity’s dispatchable utility-scale energy storage solution will arguably aid utilities in avoiding capacity charges and enable them to manage peak load at a more cost-effective rate, as compared with traditional non-renewable solutions.

Utility-scale storage projects

Yesterday, SolarCity announced a project with utility Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC) to install 13MW of solar power systems and at least 1.5MW of energy storage – representing 6MWh of storage duration. The system will use 57,000 PV panels and energy storage to create the infrastructure to provide clean, reliable and dispatchable energy to wholesale electric customers and members of the municipal utility.

Located at Mountain Ash Farm in Connecticut, the project could be significant because it marks the first provision of capacity services by SolarCity from a large-scale solar-plus-storage project. Provider of energy storage has not been revealed for the project as yet.   

Earlier this year Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), the Hawaii-based consumer owned electrical utility, previously installed a 12MW utility-scale solar system with SolarCity, and is currently implementing a 13MW solar and 52MWh storage facility. The storage system in that project will be supplied by Tesla, who SolarCity said were awarded the contract after a competitive process. GTM Research analyst Ravi Manghani recently said that Tesla's storage sales to SolarCity this year could equate to 116MWh of energy storage at customer sites, which Manghani said was "…60% larger than the entire 2015 US behind-the-meter energy storage market".

Additional reporting by Andy Colthorpe.

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