Installations of energy storage systems are skyrocketing throughout the country over the last couple of years. In fact, residential installs increased 500 percent from 2017 to 2018! A number of different companies are introducing batteries to help meet this increased demand, creating a crowded field of products to choose from.
In order to help you sift through the numerous options, EnergySage is interviewing storage manufacturers to learn more about their product offerings and company. Recently, we sat down with Electriq Power to discuss the history of the company, what differentiates their primary product for homeowners (the PowerPod), and where they see the energy storage industry evolving in the coming years.
The history and growth of Electriq Power
EnergySage: Tell us about the history of Electriq Power. When were you founded? How has Electriq Power grown over time?
Electriq Power, Inc., set up its first lab in a garage in San Leandro, CA, in late 2014. After purchasing a totaled Nissan Leaf and stripping the battery and computers for parts, the Electriq team went to work attempting to build our first home battery prototype. After four months of building, testing, rebuilding, and retesting, Electriq’s first energy storage prototype was complete.
Over the next few years, the team grew, investors emerged, and Electriq’s original prototype evolved into our first consumer-ready smart home battery, the IQ System. And even though the energy storage market was still in its infancy, consumers recognized the need for home energy storage.
Fast forward to present day, we now occupy over 5,000 sq. ft. at our headquarters, which is still in San Leandro, and our home battery systems can be found in customers’ homes and small businesses all over the world. Among these are systems that Electriq Power has donated to hurricane-stricken areas like Puerto Rico and Haiti to help them become more resilient during dangerous weather conditions.
The PowerPod: Electriq Power’s flagship battery
EnergySage: The PowerPod is your primary product for homeowners and small business owners. What separates the PowerPod from the rest of the pack?
The Electriq PowerPod differentiates from other systems in a number of ways. Primarily, the flexibility of the system allows installers and homeowners a number of possible configurations to fit their needs. We can stack both the kW and kWh of the systems. The base system is 5.5 kW but can stack up to 16.5 kW of continuous output and 11.4 – 102 kWh. The system can be installed grid-tied or in off-grid scenarios. It can also be configured with a generator to provide a third layer of backup power.
We’re also proud that we’re able to offer one of the most affordable systems on the market today. Our DC-coupled system does not require any additional solar inverter, transformer, charge controller, transfer switch, etc. This not only keeps equipment cost down, but reduces installation time and balance of system costs.
Finally, and most importantly, we are a software company at our core, and focus on the development of smart battery features and benefits. Each system comes with the Electriq Dashboard, an online dashboard that provides analytics and insight on production, consumption, and storage data in an intuitively designed interface. Correlating utility rates, weather predictions, historical consumption, and other factors, Electriq Dashboard automates savings by controlling the PowerPod to lower energy consumption during peak rates. On top of monitoring and maximizing savings, through the Dashboard, homeowners are able to switch modes remotely. For example, a customer in California would typically be in a TOU mode discharging their battery everyday. The utility may then send a notice that due to high winds they will be shutting down power at 8:00 am the next morning. Instead of waiting until they get home to change modes, a PowerPod customer can go to their app and with one click, move into Backup mode, which will immediately prioritize the charging of their battery, and maintain a full charge until the grid event has passed. Electriq Dashboard is available on both web and mobile applications, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world through the cloud.
Consumer interest in storage
EnergySage: What is the primary motivation for your customers to install energy storage systems and what are the primary factors they consider in their purchase?
First and foremost, a backup home power system is just that: a backup for emergencies. If the power goes out, your home backup system will kick in, providing you with power until the main system is restored.
Newer backup home systems also come with smart technology that helps homeowners in many different ways. Smart technology, like the software that comes with the PowerPod, can help homeowners save money on their energy bill, and it gives them insight into how their energy is being consumed. Some systems can connect to a solar energy system, as well as to the electrical grid. The energy that is harvested from your solar panels, and/or energy pulled from the grid, can be stored within the home battery system for use at a later time. In the event of a power outage, the system will automatically switch off from the grid and begin pulling power from the backup system. Which system is most suitable for you comes down to your individual wants, needs, and circumstances. Your first consideration should be your overall power usage.
It is important for customers to be mindful of the capacities of their energy storage systems, which are designed to keep essential loads backed up for an extended period of time. If homeowners want to back up larger appliances, like 5 ton AC units, they’re going to significantly lower the time that the essential load will stay on. Customers should prioritize their power needs to optimize the battery’s duration. The major functions you’d want to keep running would be lighting, outlets, fridge, TV, internet, etc. Plus, the system cost difference between backing up essential loads and all loads can be significant.
EnergySage: What factors are consumers *not* considering about energy storage that they should be?
Many customers today aren’t thinking about the long-term impact of their energy storage system choice. Solar PV systems should last 20 – 30 years, while battery systems are usually warrantied for 10 years, so it is likely you’ll have to replace the battery during the life of the solar panel system. Other systems on the market require you to replace the entire enclosure and system. This is like a car manufacturer making you replace the whole car anytime the battery dies. The PowerPod is modularly built so that you can simply replace the battery pack and not the entire enclosure. When it comes to cost efficiency and longevity, homeowners should be thinking about lifecycle system expenses when deciding on a home storage system.
EnergySage: What do you see driving storage adoption rates in the future?
The beauty of energy storage is that it can provide multiple value streams depending on your location. With the increase in natural disasters, more utilities imposing Time of Use rates, and other factors, we see energy storage deployments growing throughout the country. Outside of California, the markets with the most momentum areHawaii, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Florida, Texas, and the Northeast. As prices continue to decrease, we’re also seeing parts of the Midwest show increasing interest in moving away from generators and opting for clean and quiet PowerPods.
The future of energy storage
EnergySage: Where do you see the energy storage industry moving over the next 6-18 months, and what is the main barrier to achieving that vision?
We live in a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week society. Consumers’ lives have become totally dependent on uninterrupted power – from that first cup of homebrewed coffee in the morning, to those late-night emails sent from home in the evening. This constant, consistent access to energy allows us to withdraw money from an ATM, pump gas into our cars, pedal through those after work spin classes and everything in between, all without a moment of thought as to how this consumer lifestyle is made possible.
Over the next 6-18 months, we will see a much greater rate of adoption for energy storage. Right now, the main roadblock is figuring out how to let consumers know that there are alternatives to how they consume energy. As prices of hardware continue to fall and incentives continue to offset costs, the total installed cost of a solar + storage system will be much more attractive to homeowners.
EnergySage: What will solar + storage homes look like a year from now?
A year from now, a home with solar + storage will be one that can harvest and consume most of its own energy and ride through blackouts. We like to call it a home with true peace of mind. The increased frequency of extreme weather and climate events is now the leading cause of major power outages. Millions of customers are at risk of experiencing recurring blackouts that endanger businesses, homes, and lives. We want to protect more customers by offering an intelligent energy storage solution for their homes.