If you're looking at a home built by KB Home (NYSE: KBH ) in the near future you may have the option to not only include solar panels, but also energy storage, making life off the grid possible, at least for a short time. SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR ) announced late last night that it is partnering with KB Home to pilot energy storage systems in Irvine, El Dorado Hills, and San Diego, California with a broader rollout possible next year.
This follows smaller tests the company has been performing in Australia and Germany and is the first energy storage agreement with a major homebuilder.
What SunPower is installing this year
For now, the systems being tested with KB Home will include Sunverge energy storage technology and will be intended to provide power during a blackout or power outage. The system will be installed in a slim closet enclosure on the side of the home and could provide off-peak power beyond emergencies in the future.
This is just one of a number of energy storage technologies being tested by SunPower and I'd expect multiple offerings to be available to customers long-term as energy storage is rolled out.
The other thing SunPower isn't announcing at this time is how pricing will work for energy storage. That leaves open the possibility of selling, leasing, or monetizing systems in another way in the future.
Solar energy is the future of solar
This announcement from SunPower follows SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY ) and Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ: TSLA ) move into commercial and residential energy storage using Tesla batteries. In fact, a large percentage of Tesla's planned 50 gigawatt hours of battery production is slated to go to energy storage through its partnership with SolarCity.
What both SolarCity and SunPower are trying to do is create businesses that are designed to sell energy to consumers without the need for subsidies or even net metering. Today, their residential solar systems will "spin the meter backward" or sell power to the grid, when they're producing more energy than the house uses and then homeowners will consume energy from the grid at night. That system requires net metering, which utilities are fighting, but energy storage could reduce the need for net metering.
Going completely off the grid is still a long way off, but if energy storage can reduce the ups and downs of solar energy production, reduce reliance on net metering, and keep power on during outages it's a win for the grid and consumers.
To solar companies designing the future
SunPower and SolarCity are pushing the residential solar industry forward and energy storage is a big piece of that strategy. SunPower's announcement that KB Home, one of the largest homebuilders in the country, is testing the company's product is a small but significant step toward greater adoption of energy storage in homes.
Eventually, the variability of solar energy production won't be a factor for the industry and consumers may even be able to control when and how they use power from the grid. That would be a revolution in energy and SunPower and SolarCity are leading the way.
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