As competition in the residential solar power installation field revs up to a high pitch, solar industry giant SolarCity is looking to the electric vehicle market in order to give itself an edge. The company has just announced a partnership with another leading company in the EV charger field, ClipperCreek, to sell EV chargers through its 24 facilities across the country. The move enables SolarCity to claim itself, at least for now, as the single largest provider of electric vehicle, solar and energy efficiency services in the country. It also illustrates how the growing EV market is providing new opportunities for solar installers to expand their operations from buildings to vehicles.
SolarCity and Electric Vehicles
The new announcement is not SolarCity's first connection with solar powered EV chargers. Back in 2009, the company was involved in a partnership with Tesla Motors and ClipperCreek to build EV chargers at several bank branches and a public parking garage along Highway 101 between San Francisco and Los Angeles, one of which sported a 30 kwh rooftop solar installation. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is also the chairman of SolarCity, so the intertwining of solar installations for buildings and electric vehicles is pretty well embedded in SolarCity's DNA.
Selling EV Chargers - Without the EV
CrippleCreek's EV chargers will start at about $1,500 for the company's 240-volt Level II charger, which is about five times faster than using a standard outlet. Because of its existing network in solar and energy efficiency installations, SolarCity is in a position to promote the installation of EV chargers as a value-added element in new building projects, renovations and retrofits, regardless of whether or not a customer currently owns an EV, is planning to buy one, or has no particular plans for one.
Using More Electricity to Save the Planet
Ironically, powering up your EV at home essentially means adding another huge energy-sucking device to your domestic inventory, at a time when we are all being asked to conserve. That doesn't seem to make sense from a sustainability standpoint unless you consider it in the context of a clean, renewable energy source. SolarCity offers its solar installations under a lease agreement calculated to provide the owner with an electricity bill lower than grid-supplied energy, and an EV charger forms an attractive part of the package. According to SolarCity's figures, the typical San Francisco area driver would pay about $54 monthly to charge their vehicle with a home solar system leased from the company, compared to $107 monthly for grid-supplied energy, or $230 in gasoline costs.
Solar Powered EV Chargers and Sustainability
Solar power resolves one huge sustainability conundrum for the electric vehicle industry, and that is the simple fact that at the present time EV owners have little choice but to charge up from their local grid, which puts them at the mercy of whatever energy source their power company is dedicated to. Given that coal still supplies about half the nation's electricity, many EV owners are just one degree of separation away from driving coal-powered cars. Solar chargers provide EV owners with a quick shortcut to clean renewable energy.
The Solar Powered Economic Revival
In a piece of related news, last month SolarCity launched a partnership with Google to establish a $280 million fund to help finance new residential solar installations. In announcing the new fund, SolarCity CEO Lydon Rive noted that U.S. companies are sitting on huge stockpiles of cash that could be invested in clean energy projects that promote U.S. energy independence while creating new green jobs.
Image credit: The sun by gr33n3gg on flickr.com.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.