US storage market matures on back of Duke, REC Solar and Tesla announcements

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North Carolina-based energy company Duke Energy Renewables has entered into a storage partnership with Green Charge Networks to deliver commercial-scale energy storage to its customers across the U.S. and, in the process, deliver another signal of maturation for the country’s storage market.

Elsewhere in the U.S., Vermont state utility Green Charge Networks has become the first utility nationwide to offer the highly anticipated Powerwall home battery from Tesla, and will do so by offering customers the option of a monthly payment scheme in order to lessen the financial burden of bringing storage into the home.

Duke Energy Renewables’ partnership includes PV input from REC Solar, which Duke Energy acquired a large stake in earlier this year. The company aims to make it easier for its commercial customers to combine solar and storage, and will also leverage its influence in Phoenix Energy Technologies to offer other energy management systems via the partnership.

Green Charge Networks, which is the largest provider of commercial storage solutions in the U.S., will market its storage with REC solar’s project across southern California and Hawaii initially, providing "solar firming" solutions to enable customers to offset the higher prices of peak demand power, thereby smoothing the peaks and valleys of what is a variable energy source.

"Energy storage is the ideal complement to REC Solar’s offering, helping customers get the most out of a sustainable resource, securing their investment through solar firming and lowering energy costs," said Green Charge Networks CEO Vic Shao. "By partnering with the largest electric power holding company in the U.S., and REC Solar, we add momentum to our domestic plans."

Green Charge Networks’ storage solution is a modular platform comprising lithium-ion battery technology and predictive software that enables cost-effective storage management, making it a good solution for commercial-scale entities eager to lower their energy bills.

The company has developed a range of financing options, including leases and PPAs, via its financing relationship with Duke Energy.

Smart financing for Tesla

Similarly customer-focused financing is being offered for would-be recipients of the Tesla Powerwall in Vermont, where Green Mountain Power has ordered 500 units for delivery in January. The utility is offering residential customers the chance to pay the $6,500 to get a Powerwall installed, and then receive monthly bill credits of $31.76 – which works out as a 17-year payment plan – or take the seemingly more attractive, zero-upfront option, which will cost customers $37.50 per month, effectively amounting to an interest-free 14-year payment plan.

Making the Tesla Powerwall an affordable and financially viable addition to the home storage revolution has become one of the key aims for the storage industry of the U.S. Amid the brouhaha of the battery’s launch, many skeptics argued – often with valid grounds for concern – that the kit would not deliver the promised cost reductions required to help the battery market mature at the pace required.

Green Mountain Power’s approach – for its Powerwall owners to share stored power with the utility – appears to have at least hit upon a viable way to enables its customers to share the costs of storage and, in the process, proliferate the growth of the Powerwall in what could become a pivotal pilot market for the technology.