With today's announcement comes the launch of the Powerwall, a battery pack powerful enough to dramatically reduce the average household’s reliance on ‘the grid’.
Billed as the next step in “helping to wean the world off fossil fuels”, the Powerwall can be connected with solar or grid energy sources, extending the capabilities of both.
It’s when paired with solar that the Powerwall will serve its greatest purpose, however, extending the technology’s environment and cost benefits well beyond current capabilities.
Measuring 1300mm tall, 860 wide and 180mm thick, the Powerwall will mount to the inside or outside wall of any home.
The unit will be offered in 7kWh and 10kWh capacities, the former working with solar power to extend the cost benefits into the night.
Upgrading to the 10kWh option, will start from US$3500, will add the benefit of a backup system, essentially powering a home or business during a blackout in the same way that a petrol generator would.
If connected to the grid, the system can charge during evenings and weekends - off-peak periods when costs are lower - and feed that power back into the home during the more expensive hours of the day.
Likewise, the system can be used to store solar power built up during the day for use later at night - to contribute to the home’s power or to recharge an electric vehicle - or simply flow surplus power back into the grid as needed.
Musk describes the Powerwall - and the more powerful and “infinitely scalable” Powerpack available to businesses and even utility companies - as the “missing piece” in the solar energy puzzle.
The capability for utility companies and businesses to add storage to their renewable energy systems is not new, but in the residential space, technology like the Powerwall could slash annual power costs.
Many technology spectators have championed Tesla’s all-electric and highly capable Model S sedan as the beginning of a new era in motoring, prompting established carmakers to launch ultra-green projects of their own.
The Model S has already moved the auto industry to change how it views the future, and while Tesla is not the only player in energy storage, its presence could have a similar effect on the global energy market.
Tesla Energy is not Musk’s first move into energy storage for the home and business. He is also chairman of SolarCity, which installs and leases solar panels to people for less than they’d pay in regular energy bills, and sells surplus energy back to local utility companies.
Already, SolarCity has begun installing Tesla batteries for customers, mostly for large commercial sites like US shopping giant Walmart.
Likewise, a pilot program that has been running over the past year has seen 500 Californian homes installed with the 10kWh pack.
According to SolarCity spokesperson Will Craven, those applications are capable of powering a home for around two days in the event of an outage - although likely not at regular family usage levels.
Tesla Energy and SolarCity are not alone, however, with businesses like AES Energy Storage, Sungevity and the German company Sonnenbatterie already at varying stages in their own similar projects.
Sonnenbatterie plans to begin selling its own home battery systems in the US from July, but, at between US$1600-2400 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), that company’s offering is already markedly more expensive than Tesla’s Powerwall.
Likewise, options available in Australia right now are positioned at around $1000 per kWh.
The greater affordability of Tesla’s product is thanks in part to its nearly complete ‘Gigafactory’, a plant in Nevada that is being built in partnership with Panasonic.
By 2020, the Gigafactory will be able to produce more lithium-ion battery packs each year than the current output of all of today’s battery companies combined.
The Tesla Powerwall product is expected to come to Australia early in 2016, although exact timing and pricing is still to be confirmed.
According to website RenewEconomy.com.au, Tesla has partnered with Canberra-based Reposit Power on a local pilot program for the Powerwall system.
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