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SolarCity Sees Energy Storage ‘Viable’ Within 10 Years, CEO Says

SolarCity Corp., the solar power provider led by billionaire Elon Musk, will complete about 100 energy storage systems for customers this year and plans to expand as costs decline, according to its chief executive officer.

“It’ll be a viable product in the next ten years,” SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said today in an interview in San Francisco. “We don’t know yet how big the next phase is going to be, but this is a long term investment, full stop,” he said. “We will solve the storage issue.”

The San Mateo, California-based company is installing 8 kilowatt-hour battery packs provided by Tesla Motors Inc. and combining them with energy management systems that allow for remote monitoring. Storage will be crucial to balance the U.S. electric grid as solar expands from 1 percent of total generation capacity today, according to Rive.

“The criticism that solar gets is that it’s intermittent, that you can’t depend on it, but at 1 percent it still doesn’t matter,” Rive said. “Once you get to 20 percent, it starts to matter,” he said.

Rooftop solar systems that SolarCity provides don’t have the same risk of dropping off in large amounts from the grid, though that is an issue with larger utility-scale systems, according to Rive.

“The fear of intermittency actually comes from large central solar,” he said. “We can forecast very accurately what power you’re going to produce based on the weather conditions that we see,” he said.

SolarCity has 395 energy storage “pilots” under contract, according to a filing March 27.

Musk is Tesla’s CEO as well as SolarCity’s chairman and it’s largest shareholder. Rive is his cousin.

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