Solar photovoltaics and electric vehicles (EVs) are two shining stars of the sustainable-energy movement. Despite their growing market shares, limitations remain, and few would have guessed that pairing these technologies would offer relief. One company has brought the two together in a unique way.


In December, the California-based SolarCity unveiled a smart storage system for its business customers. The system includes learning software that automates the discharge of stored energy. That energy is stored with advanced battery technology developed by EV-pioneer Tesla.


SolarCity says the technology will help address two emerging problems, rising demand charges and grid outages. According to SolarCity, businesses that have installed solar-power systems are still getting hit with big bills because utilities are raising their rates for peak usage. In most cases, even with a solar-power system installed, businesses still need to draw electricity from the grid during the busiest times of the day. With a commercial storage system, however, businesses can draw from their own stored power during peak times.


SolarCity also notes that the United States experienced nearly 700 major weather-related outages in the last year. The company’s new storage systems will help businesses keep critical functions—such as information technology and security systems and cash registers—up and running even when an outage occurs.


SolarCity has already proven its ability to make solar more accessible by offering power purchase agreements that allow customers to have solar cells without having to bear the burden of installation costs. Now, it is applying a similar model to its storage systems. Solar power customers can purchase the storage through 10-year service agreements, including monthly payments and no upfront costs. The company will custom-design the storage system to ensure that businesses save money right away by paying less on their energy bills than they do for their monthly storage.


The storage systems will be made available initially in select areas of California, Connecticut and Massachusetts.