Chris & Louise
Size: 6.48 kW
Production: 11,892 kWh /yr
Tesla Powerwall (2x)
Solar Hot Water
After moving to Tucson in 2011, one of the first things Chris and Louise did was put solar on their home. Eight years and countless sustainability-minded additions later, the time was right for the next step: Batteries.
“We decided to get a battery storage system because it just seemed like the next logical step. If this had been available when we put our solar system in, we probably would have done it at the same time,” says Chris. “Now, with the technology available, it seemed like the best way for us to be able to use the extra electricity that our solar panels are generating. Being able to store energy during the day and pull it out at night, rather than drawing it from the grid, further reduces our carbon footprint and just feels like a more logical use of the power we are generating.”
Both Chris and Louise work from home, and a stable power source is crucial to their productivity. Chris, working remotely for the government, says it can take up to thirty minutes to get his workstation back up and running following an outage. “It’s nice to know that if there’s an outage we’ll remain seamlessly connected. Outages are rare in Tucson, but when they do happen they are usually significant: a transformer blows and the power’s out for five hours. That happens once every two or three years and suddenly we’re out for a whole afternoon. Having a backup is extra peace of mind that we can continue working and doing what we need to do throughout.”
Louise, a CPA specializing in accounting and auditing for non-profits, takes sustainability personally: “I spend my day working with people who are trying to make the world better, and I think to myself, ‘hey, I can do my part.’ The environment is my part. My grandmother told me ‘we had war, you have the environment.’ We’ve gotta take care of this planet. It’s the only one we’ve got, this is it.”
Another major factor in adding battery storage to their home was the ability to better control how and when the energy generated by their solar system is used. “I’ve watched the phone app and can tell exactly what our system is doing; when our home is being powered by our solar, when clouds come in and it switches between solar and battery. You don’t even know it. It’s not like there’s a flicker or a bump - it’s just so seamless that you don’t even know it’s happening. It’s not like the TV goes blip or the computer hiccups.”
“Sending energy back to the grid wasn’t doing enough good, and at night the utility is using fossil fuels to give us energy, so I felt like we were missing a whole critical part to the equation. Once I learned about using battery to store and use our own excess production it seemed like a no-brainer to me. Plus, it’s really cool, to look at the app and say ‘Ok, we’re drawing from our battery. Oh, we’re charging up our battery.’ It’s amazing, it’s really cool. This little slick machine in the corner does all that.”
Both Tesla Powerwalls, affectionately nicknamed ’Heg’ (Home Energy Gateway), are installed in their garage, taking up less than half the space of a recycling bin. “Our neighbors were asking ‘Oh, where are you going to put batteries?’ because we have a bunch of bikes on the wall. In reality, it takes up almost no room.”
“We were pleased with how fast the permitting process was handled by the City of Tucson and TEP. I think we had both permits approved less than two weeks after submission by TFS, and the City did its inspection about a week after the batteries were in. Both Tucson and TEP were supportive of this investment in our home and community.”
Chris and Louise’s home, built with energy efficient materials and design, has been furnished with high efficiency appliances and lighting and solar hot water. Their garden is cactus and uses reclaimed water for irrigation and their carpet, counters, and tiling are made from upcycled materials and acquired locally when possible.
“If you’re putting in a solar energy system, I would definitely recommend putting in a battery. If you’re concerned about the environment, the carbon footprint you have, and what you can do to help now: This is it. This is what you can do. It’s an investment, but it’s an investment that comes back to you."