SolarCity to build its own power grids

SolarCity's microgrids offer software-based monitoring, controls and battery backup

Seeing a complete reliance on the utilities' grids as increasingly troublesome, rooftop solar distributor SolarCity has decided to begin selling its own power distribution systems.

The microgrids, as SolarCity is calling them, are small, independent power grids that can be set by cities, corporate campuses, military bases, or in remote locations such as islands.

"The first decade of the 21st century saw 3,496 natural disasters, nearly a fivefold increase over the 1970s," SolarCity states in its marketing material. "Severe weather events can cause prolonged power outages that cut off access to critical public resources."

The company, whose chief executive is Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, said the grids will include distributed solar panels (rooftop), Tesla lithium-ion batteries and controllable loads to offer users "cleaner, more resilient and more affordable power."

The SolarCity service, which will be sold under the name GridLogic, is built on a concept of power nodes and connections, where each node (a set of energy-producing solar panels) includes locally optimized distributed energy resources and loads. Each node is self-contained and capable of operating autonomously as well as in coordination with the larger system; that way it can scale up if needed and a collection of nodes itself becomes a locally optimized node.

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How a SolarCity microgrid would be designed.

SolarCity said the distributed node concept simplifies what has traditionally been a complex utility grid system by combining a set of "stable and self-optimized building blocks that operate in a coordinated fashion."

As with its rooftop solar programs, GridLogic will offer customers financing options, including payment programs with little to no upfront cost.

SolarCity claims the GridLogic program can provide electricity to communities for less than they pay for utility power with the added benefit of backup power in the form of batteries for emergency services.

"SolarCity's microgrid service ensures that any community anywhere in the world vulnerable to power outages and high energy costs... can have dependable, clean power when the grid is down," the company stated.

GridLogic can operate either in conjunction with or independently of the utility grid.

An in-house grid engineering team will design and install each GridLogic project with a system of software-based monitoring and controls that manage the mix of distributed energy resources and utility power to maximize savings, the company said.

SolarCity's microgrid service is now available worldwide.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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