With the shutdown of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant being rolled out through 2025, and the State of California striving to meet 100 percent renewable energy goals by 2045, it’s time to start thinking about personal energy production and storage, not just our use, says Frank Scotti, marketing director at Atascadero-based Solarponics.
It may seem to be expected for a marketing guy to “always be closing,” but his rationale is pretty sound in explaining that demand has been established and that some products are only going to get more expensive. Far from a deterrent, he says, the time is now to get on the list for state rebates and for the backlog of Tesla-brand home batteries.
“Tesla is one of the most affordable and recognizable on the market right now,” he said.
Referred to simply by the trademark Tesla Powerwall, Solarponics is one of the few in the region who’ve become a certified Tesla Powerwall Installer.
“We got in early and I think they’ve been trying to establish themselves as the brand people recognize. It’s the most bang for the buck,” Scotti adds. “LG and Sonnen batteries are perfectly good but they’re more expensive.”
The focus is on batteries and storage with clean energy right now, because unlike the pair of nuclear reactors producing a constant stream of energy from a single spot on the coast, wind and sunshine are far more unpredictable, and he adds, hydroelectric power is not being considered as renewable in the State’s calculations.
That’s possibly due to the long term impacts of drought and the permanent footprint hydroelectric dams have left on ecosystems.
In any case, both homeowners and utility companies are looking for the same thing, control over when and how power is used after generation.
While a Powerwall or equivalent system makes a good backup for emergencies, charging on the grid and taking the place of a generator during an outage, they’re increasingly part of the “standard kit” for those looking at a home solar array.
“Most of our customers are pairing them with solar because of the return on investment,” he says, noting the use as charging up during the day when the utility rate would be at seven cents a watt/hour, then being available to subsidize use at peak hours when the cost climbs to 33-40 cents.
“About 25 percent of our installs are going in with a battery this year,” he said. “That’s up from around two to four percent in 2017. Within the next five years every solar install will have a battery as part of a unified system.”
Batteries themselves will not decrease in cost though, partially because the subsidies for systems are being reduced, but also because of global demand and the literal rare earth metals used in their construction.
“It’s not an emergency but we’re seeing a run on these products at the moment,” he said. “I’d say get on the list and get it secured now.”
The California rebate program is referred to as SGIP (Self Generation Incentive Program) calculated at about $3,500 per single Tesla Powerwall or other home battery storage unit. If the battery is installed with solar, or on a home that already has solar, Scotti adds, the battery addition also qualifies for the 30 percent federal tax credit. That’s slated to drop to 26 percent on Jan 1, 2020, adding to the rush at the moment.
Currently, Solarponics has installed more than 100 Tesla Powerwalls in SLO County and currently has another 60 scheduled. If they can chart a trend a decade in advance, difficult to predict with State and Federal regulations playing key roles, they predict 10,000 batteries installed on the Central Coast over the next ten years.
Camas Frank has been a San Luis Obispo County print journalist for over a decade. First drawn to the Central Coast for a stint at Cal Poly, he’s focused on community affairs, people and technology.