During an event held at Tesla’s Hawthorne, California, Design Studio on April 30 the electric car maker announced their newest venture, Tesla Energy. Taking a new approach to renewable energy, Tesla Energy unveiled their new home battery system, the Power Wall. The entire event was powered by the new Tesla batteries installed at the facility and charged via solar panels. During the presentation, Tesla CEO Elon Musk acknowledged that battery systems are not a new idea per se, but that current battery systems “suck.” Some of the features of the Power Wall system they believe will revolutionize the industry are,
- Integrated with DC to AC power inverter and safety devices such as thermal monitoring.
- Scalable so that increased energy demands can be met by adding additional units.
- Maintenance-free and completely automated.
- Charging options; charge from the grid during low-cost periods for use during high demand times or charge and store power via solar panels.
- Sell excess energy production back to the grid.
- Wall-mounted for space-saving. Eliminates the need for a “battery room.”
- Emergency back-up for power outages.
Current generation home batteries are bulky, expensive to install and expensive to maintain. In contrast, Powerwall’s lithium ion battery inherits Tesla’s proven automotive battery technology to power your home safely and economically. Completely automated, it installs easily and requires no maintenance.
Musk also illustrated the relatively small area of solar panels and batteries needed to support the electricity demands of the United States. While that is relatively small compared to the size of the U.S. it is still square miles and miles of solar panels. However, he also points out that the vast majority of that surface area will be on rooftops, so it will not require large tracts of land for solar farms. He also discussed the demand globally and Tesla does intend to take this Renewable Energy approach global. “We expect to scale this internationally. It’ll scale as fast as we can scale it,” Tesla co-founder and CTO JB Straubel told reporters. Musk’s long-term vision is to “fundamentally change the way the world uses energy at the extreme scale. We’re talking at the terawatt scale.” The individual household approach seems to be the best way to push the green energy conversion and bypass the bureaucratic red tape and regulation that inhibits large-scale solar and wind generation. Individual solar plus battery storage will revolutionize energy production. In a recent report released by the Rocky Mountain Institute they said;
Rising retail prices for grid electricity and declining costs for solar PV and batteries mean that grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems will be economic within the next 10–15 years for many customers in many parts of the country. Utilities could see significant decline in energy sales that would support needed grid investment. Thus it’s critical that utilities, regulators, and other electricity system stakeholders urgently pursue reform on three fronts—rate structures, utility business models, and regulatory frameworks—to embrace solar, batteries, and other DERs as an integral, optimized part of the future grid, rather than as a threat to that grid.
The introduction of the Tesla Power Wall could potentially accelerate that 10-15 year time frame. Of course, traditional energy production industry leaders may have something to say about that. If, and it’s a big IF, the utility providers of today follow the RMI recommendations, we could be on the fast track to an energy revolution. On the other hand, if they try to play hardball, then we could be in for an ugly fight. In the meantime, those who choose to get on the bandwagon early will benefit regardless of what battle may ensue in the future. Tesla also recognizes that they cannot meet the need for such an epic scale transformation on their own and according to CEO Elon Musk the Tesla policy of “open sourcing the patents will continue,” so that other companies can join them in revolutionizing the energy industry.