A hurdle for Tesla and SolarCity’s grid batteries: Utilities


The biggest hurdle to hooking up more batteries to the power grid (to store energy) has long been cost — batteries are just too expensive. But another real-world challenge is quietly emerging for solar installer SolarCity (s SCTY) as it’s been trying to ramp up sales of batteries, made by electric car maker Tesla, combined with solar panels: The utilities themselves.

SolarCity says that its solar battery pilot program — which it has been working on since early 2012 — has managed to get around 500 customers in California (including Walmart) interested. But to date only a dozen of those customers have battery systems connected to the grid. That’s because California’s three large utilities are slowing down the connection process, requiring a series of applications, charging high fees for connecting batteries (in some cases close to $4,000 per customer), and just taking a very long time to connect…

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