Tesla’s former head of energy is officially launching Lunar Energy, a new startup aimed at simplifying the transition to full home electrification. Kunal Girotra, who was until February 2020 Tesla’s senior director of energy operations, is chief executive of Lunar as well as its founder.
The California-based startup plans to develop software and hardware that would create an “ecosystem” for a home with solar panels and electrical appliances to use energy efficiently, according to Girotra. Over the past 18 months, Lunar completed two funding rounds of $150 million each; its backers include Sunrun Inc., the largest solar installation company in the US, and SK Group, a South Korean holding company. Lunar, which Girotra says has been in stealth development since mid-2020, declined to disclose its current valuation.
Lunar expects to launch its first product by the end of the year, and Girotra will only share only that it’s a home battery system capable of controlling energy loads and enabling a house “to become its own power plant.” In other words, taking power from the grid when needed, storing energy from a home solar system when possible, and discharging extra power back to the grid for sale. “All you need to do is bring solar panels,” Girotra says. “We’ll do the rest to provide an end-to-end energy storage system.”
About 26% of US households are fully electrified, meaning electricity is their only source of energy, according to the Energy Information Administration. Most homes use electricity and at least one other fuel source to power their appliances. Lunar is hoping that a more cohesive and inexpensive system of energy storage will allow more homeowners to switch to using electricity only.
In June 2021, Lunar acquired UK-based Moixa, whose cloud-based software connects batteries from multiple homes to sell excess power back to the grid. Lunar paid an undisclosed amount for the company, which currently has a fleet of batteries in the UK, as well as more than 30,000 in Japan. Girotra says Lunar wants to expand that technology to the US.
Lunar is far from the only startup tapping into the potential of home electrification. Sunrun, one of Lunar’s majority investors, is also focused on helping consumers lease or buy new solar systems. Lynn Jurich, former Sunrun CEO and now co-executive chair, said the company decided to invest in Lunar to realize a mutual goal. “It just makes sense to have two separate companies that are complementary and running at the same outcome,” said Jurich, who is also the chair of Lunar’s board of operations.
Tesla is exploring its own virtual power plant pilot programs in Texas and California, though the carmaker’s solar rooftop project has proven a bit of a bust.
((An earlier version of the story was corrected to refer to SK Group, notSK Inc.))
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