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Elon Musk's Tesla Battery + SolarCity's Solar Systems = Clean Energy Future

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Following months of anticipation, Tesla founder Elon Musk last week unveiled a suite of batteries for homes and businesses that he says will "fundamentally change the way the world uses energy." And while this is huge news from the electric carmaker, the biggest initial impact it'll make will be for SolarCity and its customers looking to untether from Big Power.

A solar revolution? Here's why Tesla's Powerwall home battery is a really big deal for residential solar customers. Photo Credit: Solar City

The San Mateo, California-based solar supplier is the first in line to incorporate Tesla's new batteries, offering a "turnkey residential solar battery backup system" at a price point that's more than 60 percent less than previous solar power storage products, SolarCity announced.

SolarCity has already started taking orders for Tesla's residential batteries and will begin installations in October. According to Bloomberg, customers can prepay $5,000 for a nine-year lease on a 10 kilowatt-hour system. Customers can also buy the entire system for $7,140. The prices reportedly include installation, a maintenance agreement, the electrical inverter and control systems.

It's clear that the benefits of a solar battery system goes beyond having electricity after the sun sets or when the power is out. "It is vital that we advance the technologies that will lead to an affordable, decarbonized grid. The widespread availability of affordable battery storage will unlock the full potential of solar energy to contribute to this effort," wrote Musk's cousin/SolarCity co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Peter Rive in a blog post about the batteries. "I believe that the solar battery systems launched today will result in a record amount of batteries being deployed in the U.S., advancing our goal of ensuring a cleaner future for all."

Lyndon Rive (left) and Peter Rive are co-founders of SolarCity. Photo credit: SolarCity

For residential solar consumers, the Tesla Powerwall—a hybrid solar/battery, inverter and monitoring and control system—provides backup power when the grid is down and replaces "noisy, dirty fossil fuel generators with zero-emission storage technology," according to SolarCity.

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Rive also wrote that customers could one day make money from their solar battery systems by opening it up to others. "Our customer contract explicitly contemplates the potential of these markets and creates a revenue-sharing opportunity for the customer," he wrote. "For utilities and grid operators, the technology is designed to enable remote-aggregated control of solar battery systems. I urge anyone reading this who is responsible for managing grid operations, and who is interested in procuring capacity, reactive power, or voltage management services deep in the distribution system to contact us."

It's no secret that both of Musk's energy-progressive companies (the multi-tasking entrepreneur is a chairman of SolarCity and its largest shareholder) are looking for ways to revolutionize rooftop solar as well as mitigate climate change by curbing the consumption of fossil fuels. Tesla's batteries potentially allows users to go completely off the grid with clean, green renewable energy.

SolarCity isn't just offering Tesla's latest game-changing gadget for residential customers. Businesses and government organizations can access the company's DemandLogic energy storage system which reduces energy costs by using stored electricity to reduce peak demand, while remote communities can tap into the GridLogic microgrid service that's ideal for places in the world that are vulnerable to power outages and high energy costs.

SolarCity is the largest solar power supplier for homes and businesses in the U.S. Last month, SolarCity activated a fund including an investment from Credit Suisse that is expected to finance more than $1 billion in commercial solar energy systems. This was only one month after Google committed $300 million to the company.

Solar power is growing at an incredible rate and will only spread as human-kind learns to better harness the sun's rays. “We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun," said Musk during Tesla's product announcement last week. "You don’t have to do anything, it just works—shows up every day and produces ridiculous amounts of power.”

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That's the conclusion of a new study from think tank Autonomy, which found that Germany, the UK and Sweden all needed to drastically reduce their workweeks to fight climate change.

"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."

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