One step closer to living off the grid, thanks to Elon Musk and Tesla Motors.
Tesla has finally taken the wraps off Tesla Energy, its ambitious battery system that can work for homes, businesses, and even utilities. The system breaks down into two separate products: the Powerwall is a home battery system, that comes in a 10 kWh version for $3,500, or a 7 kWh model for $3,000. The unit is about three feet by four feet in size and six inches thick, and comes with integrated heat management and can fit either on the inside or outside of the wall of your home. The system is connected to the internet — Elon Musk said that the system can be used to create "smart microgrids" — and can be used as a redundancy system, or potentially allow a home to go off the power grid entirely. "The whole thing is a system that just works," Musk told reporters during a briefing this evening.
The cool part is that it works to send energy back to the grid, too.
As more electricity is generated from renewable but intermittent sources like solar and wind, demand for storage is going to go up — batteries can absorb surplus power and flow it back into the grid when needed, evening out supply and demand. That's why states like California with aggressive renewable energy mandates are demanding utilities add storage capacity too.
Right now most storage is being added at the utility level or to businesses, which are subject to higher prices when demand is high. But energy analyst GTM believes residential storage is about to boom as well, representing almost half of the storage market by 2019, and driving the transition to a more decentralized grid. Tesla and SolarCity, run by Musk's cousin Lyndon Rive, have been positioning themselves to take advantage of this space. SolarCity has been running a pilot program that pairs its panels with Tesla batteries, and Musk, who sits on SolarCity's board, says that every SolarCity unit will come with a battery within five to ten years, and that the combined systems will drive the price of solar below that of natural gas.
Battery technology is the biggest weakness right now in efforts to transform solar power to a practical energy provider. I have high hopes for Tesla's efforts here.