How Green Mountain Power Makes Grid Defection Work for Them

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Why would a utility company encourage its customers to produce their own power with the ability to completely disconnect from the grid? The fact that one New England power company is doing just that, and doing well as a result, is a testament to just how convoluted the electricity game has become, now that rooftop solar has literally turned everything upside down.

For starters, it’s not your average utility. Vermont’s Green Mountain Power (GMP) was founded in 1997 with the mission to “use the power of consumer choice to change the way power is made.” They are “committed to sustainability every step of the way,” and offer only products with an environmental benefit and … a zero-carbon footprint.”

Green Mountain Power, the first energy utility to become a certified B-Corp, is a wholly owned subsidiary of GazMetro, a publicly traded Canadian corporation. Earlier this year, GMP was named one of Fast Company’s ten most innovative companies in the energy sector.

On their website’s home page, they advertise Tesla’s Powerwall battery.

The idea of encouraging customers to put solar on their rooftops and install Tesla Powerwall batteries, so that they can run independently, was the brainchild of Mary Powell, who became CEO in 2008. Powell was recently named one of the 25 most influential women of the Mid-Market by CEO Connection, based on her ability to influence innovation and change. She recognized that by allowing customers to produce their own power during peak daytime hours, when the sun is shining, the utility could reduce the amount of external power that they purchase from the regional transmission system, at the time when it is most expensive. The utility also has the ability to draw power from the network of residential batteries when needed. This give-and-take system, in which provider and customers essentially work together to ensure that demand is met, also saves the utility the expense of investing in large scale energy storage.

Will Tesla New Energy Storage Batteries Change the Game?

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Electricity is like money. Both are useful, fluid and can be converted into action of many different forms. And both can be saved for a rainy day. The ability to save electricity for a rainy, or cloudy day, has suddenly become much more important now that solar, as well as wind power are becoming important contributors to our energy supply.

Without storage, these renewable sources of electric power, would have to be backed up with other sources that can produce power when they can’t, which undercuts their economic usefulness.

Utility studies have found that energy storage in sufficient quantity and at a reasonable price could, in some circumstances, obviate the need for new power plants.

That’s why the recent announcement by Tesla Motors of their new battery systems, designed to be used for energy storage for homes, businesses, and utilities, is causing such a stir. While the utility analysis said that the breakeven point for storage would occur when the price per kWh fell below $350, which they predicted was years away, Tesla surprised everyone, by showing up with a utility scale battery right now, that they claim can deliver storage at $250 per kWh.

Tesla’s Powerwall for the home is a flat wall-mounted package that provides 10 kWh of storage and will sell for $3500. It will provide battery backup if the grid goes down or it can store electricity from solar panels in an off-grid configuration. By next year, these will be produced by Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada.

For utilities, the 100 kWh Powerpack is a scalable module that can go up to gigawatt levels at the $250 per kWh price point. One utility, said Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, has already contracted for a 250 MWh system.

Indeed, the biggest impact may be in the utility-class application. Some concerns have been raised about the residential offerings by, among others, SolarCity, a major supplier that happens to have Elon Musk on its board. SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass says they are not happy with the available configurations or the economics. Of the two offerings, only the smaller 7 kWh unit is designed to be charged and discharged on a daily basis. And given the fact that many localities allow the grid to fill in the gaps when the sun is not shining, that calls into question the economics of purchasing a home battery, unless you are completely off-grid. The larger 10kWh battery, is designed for backup when the grid goes down. That would be more attractive for high-end homes or small businesses with a critical need for constant power.

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