- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Environment
- Published: May 06, 2015
Imagine a battery mounted on the side of your house that stores all of the energy generated by the solar panels on your roof, so you can use solar energy when the sun isn't shining.
Imagine having your own power supply, so that when the utility suffers a black-out it doesn't affect you.
Imagine your utility having that same capability, to use solar power at night.
Imagine flattening out the curve of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere that threaten to melt glaciers from Mount Hood to Nepal, taking a large step towards preventing all sorts of climate change problems.
Whether you consider Tesla CEO Elon Musk an annoying geek or a brilliant genius or both, you have to respect his audacity and drive. When he isn't making plans to send tourists into space or colonize Mars or replace gasoline cars with electric cars, he is developing new batteries that could change the basic concept of energy production for the better.
Tesla Energy plans to start selling its Powerwall batteries to homeowners for $3500 apiece this summer, and it is also selling larger versions to businesses such as Amazon and Target and utilities such as Southern California Edison. What Tesla is selling is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy for load shifting, backup power and onsite use of solar power. The product consists of a lithium-ion battery pack, a liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. The unit mounts on a wall and is integrated with the local grid to harness excess power and give customers the flexibility to draw energy from their own reserve.
The Tesla Energy goal is to eliminate at least some of the 2,000 million metric tons of CO2 emissions that come from fossil-fuel electricity generation: "Once we’re able to rely on renewable energy sources for our power consumption, the top 50% of the dirtiest power generation resources could retire early. We would have a cleaner, smaller, and more resilient energy grid."
In his recent speech outlining the Tesla Energy plan, Musk pointed out those benefits and many others, including two with simply huge potential:
1. Tesla will share its technology used at its new $5 billion gigafactory in Reno with competitors in the spirit of open source movement, to boost the entire renewable energy industry.
2. The Powerpacks will be shipped globally and in particular to developing countries, offering the opportunity for poor countries to improve their electricity systems without building expensive, polluting utility systems — much as cell phones leapfrogged landlines in late-developing countries. This could be a huge deal in India and China and elsewhere — providing the price is right and the system works.
Of course it hasn't happened yet. But Musk's bold plan to reinvent electricity generation and improve battery performance is worth paying close attention if you like the idea of snow in the mountains of the future and prefer powder days to droughts, floods and storms. Efforts to get people to use less energy and burn less fossil fuel since have proven challenging to say the least. An innovative product with a cool design that also addresses climate change could offer a solution without the sort of scolding that people tend to resent. The fact that Tesla is investing $5 billion into its new battery factory — and sharing its technology patents — indicates that this is no PR stunt, but rather an honest attempt to create a cleaner and more stable world.
Human industry got us into this climate mess. Perhaps human industry can get us out of it as well.
Here is a Youtube video from the Wall Street Journal that explains the Tesla Energy plan as outlined by Musk: