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Repeated Power Shutoffs Spur Homeowners To Install Backup Batteries

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- After multiple power shutoffs and the looming threat of more to come, some Bay Area property owners have had enough and are exploring ways of getting themselves off the power grid.

One power option is using home battery storage that is recharged by solar panels.

"Our calls are up five to eight times on a daily basis," said Clean Solar CEO Randy Zechman.

Zechman says the vast majority of calls are now for estimates, site surveys and questions about home battery storage. A Tesla Powerwall can cost a homeowner up to $10,000 and take several weeks to secure permits and install, according to Zechman.

But Zechman said most questions are tinged with a sense of fear and anxiety.

"Lots of people that are very concerned about this new life that were living here in the Bay Area," explained Zechman.

The series of power shutdowns or threat of shutdowns implemented by PG&E to prevent wildfires has also caused a sharp rise in interest in home battery storage at San Jose-based Sunpower.

"The measure of market reaction of inbound calls and the interest, it went up 10 times. So the amount of interest is off the charts," said Sunpower CEO Tom Werner.

By sheer coincidence, Sunpower recently announced the launch of its residential battery system "Equinox." The company begins taking orders in November and expects to ship its first units by spring 2020.

The shutdowns have "turbocharged" demand, said Werner, who expects battery production costs to decrease steadily in the coming years.

"Residential homeowners that buy a battery are saying 'I'm done. I'm fed up. I want to take control. I want to not be a victim. I want to have control of my own destiny.' And it's a statement as well as an economic decision," said Werner.

In San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood, Jay Severson is planning to install two Tesla Powerwalls at a new home he is building nearby. Severson has had good results with his current solar panels, reducing monthly electricity bills from $400 to $100.

"It's hard when you see them raising rates all the time. It definitely feels like a monopoly. And that battery basically allows me to get off the grid and no longer be dependent on PG&E," said Severson. "But definitely not a fan of PG&E."

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