Over the last several years, global concern over climate change has spurred billions of dollars in investments in renewable energy projects all around the world. The increased pace of development has led to some of the most spectacular (and sprawling) renewable energy projects ever attempted, including China’s Jiuquan Wind Power Base, which is capable of generating enough energy to power a small country.
The efforts to expand renewable energy, however, have been stymied by one particular part of the renewable energy ecosystem: storage. That has limited the growth of renewable energy to wide-scale projects and has prevented homeowners from building residential renewable power systems that are economically viable. Improving battery technology and decreasing ownership costs is seen as the holy grail of home renewable energy, and there’s a newcomer to the market that may crack the code by changing the way a home uses energy to succeed where so many others have failed. Here’s a look at how.
Big Names, Expensive Results
In recent years, companies like Tesla and LG Chem have brought home energy storage products to market in an attempt to spur residential growth in renewable energy. So far their efforts have met with limited success due to the costs involved with integrating their storage systems into an average home. For example, Tesla’s Powerwall 2 carries an average total installation cost of over $12,000 for a system that can handle an average home’s daily energy needs when coupled with solar generation. When they made their debut that represented a seismic shift in the market, but experts believe that home energy storage will have to fall below the $10,000 price point to really take off. That’s where recent startup ElectrIQ aims to make waves.
Driving Down Costs
From the beginning, ElectrIQ’s goal wasn’t to challenge the manufacturing capacity of the industry giants but to integrate existing battery technology into innovative home energy storage products, using ease-of-installation and cost of ownership as the benchmarks. That makes it possible for them to work with multiple manufacturers to achieve a combined scale that even Tesla and LG Chem can’t match. They’ve recently announced the release of their flagship product, the PowerPod. It’s an 11 kWh power storage system with a built-in power inverter for easy integration into grid-power or home solar systems. Priced at $8,999, it’s perfectly positioned to give existing solutions a run for their money. That’s not the most important innovation coming from ElectrIQ, though.
The Automation Edge
The major advantage that ElectrIQ hopes to bring to bear in the home renewable energy market isn’t their batteries themselves, but rather the way their storage systems can integrate into today’s smart homes. They’ve developed a suite of energy control software that goes much farther than allowing a homeowner to monitor energy usage. The ElectrIQ system can establish two-way communication with a wide variety of smart home products from vendors like Nest, Juicebox, and Philips. The software is capable of analyzing usage data from the devices and can optimize usage to drive down total energy costs. That capability may make it possible for the average home to operate reliably with less total power storage than ever before – and it could completely change the way home renewable energy industry works and increase adoption rates like no previous product has been able to.
The Race is On
As ElectrIQ ramps up production, they’re going to begin to test their approach to home energy storage against the existing competition. Only time will tell if they will deliver on their initial promise. So far, it seems like they have some believers, in the form of a $6 million dollar seed finance round from a group of real estate owners and developers. That’s pretty significant in a market that has seen green tech startups struggle to find financial backers. If ElectrIQ does succeed, though, it will carry ramifications that go well beyond their own bottom line. It would represent a breakthrough that might finally allow homeowners everywhere an affordable way to join the clean, renewable power revolution, and that would be welcome news in the fight against climate change – which is a fight none of us can afford to lose.