SolarCity to give Nest thermostats to 10,000 new customers in California

SolarCity installation
Credit: SolarCity

Smart thermostat maker Nest has plenty of experience helping utilities manage peak demand through its Rush Hour Rewards program, which involves pre-cooling participating homes in anticipation of an energy rush hour and throttling AC usage during such a period. This spares the utility company the high cost associated with bringing additional power plants online while earning the user a sweet reward. Nest now intends to wield similar magic on the generation side of the energy equation.

Rooftop solar installer SolarCity announced a partnership with Nest today in which it will give away 10,000 Nest Learning Thermostats to select, new customers in California. The campaign, announced in a blog post, requires that the customer have Nest-compatible central air-conditioning units.

It is pertinent to note here that Google has invested more than $580 million in SolarCity over the last five years, with the latest investment coming as recently as February.

SolarCity says its Nest partnership is aimed at helping users of its photovoltaic systems maximize energy savings, and will ultimately usher in an era where “SolarCity can regulate the home’s air conditioner, pool pump and other appliances based on the availability of inexpensive, clean solar power.”

The company outlined a scenario in which the Nest automatically shuts off the AC while you’re at work, and begins pre-cooling the home using power from the PV array just as you’re about to return. The idea is that this entire solar energy-based pre-cooling exercise will lessen your dependence on the grid during evenings—when demand peaks, but the PV system is offline—and deliver maximum energy savings.

Why this matters: The two companies are hinting that we could see much tighter integration between PV systems and smart-home products as a result of this partnership. That’s why it appears to be a win-win situation for everyone involved: SolarCity, Google, and and their customers.

“This initial deployment will be the distributed project in the U.S. where we learn and implement new standards for what’s possible and what is in the shared interests of customers, solar companies, utilities, and the grid,” Nest Energy Products Director Ben Bixby told Utility Drive.

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