Tech innovator Elon Musk already has a string of enviable successes behind him, such as global e-payment solution PayPal and SpaceX’s launch rockets. He’s now making serious waves in the renewable energy industry by popularizing electric vehicles manufactured by Tesla Motors and bringing solar power to the masses with SolarCity. Tesla has just announced a potentially revolutionary “Powerwall” battery for home use that could make solar power even more enticing and accessible than it was before.
This battery enables customers to store extra electricity generated by their solar panels and then use it at times when the panels aren’t producing energy, such as during the night or when it’s cloudy outside. This ameliorates one of the disadvantages of solar power: that it can only be produced intermittently as opposed to the electricity provided by utility companies, which is available 24/7. The Powerwall could thus drastically cut into the profits of traditional power companies by enabling regular homeowners to make more efficient use of their solar equipment.
This recently released device works well with the solar leases offered by SolarCity. By taking advantage of solar leases, cash-strapped people can get a solar energy system installed at their homes without having to pay anything down. They instead pay a low rate each month until the lease is over. Now that the Powerwall battery has been developed, these deals may become even more attractive to potential clients.
According to Musk, “The issue with existing batteries is that they suck.” They have generally been too costly, bulky, or unreliable for typical consumers to get good use out of them. The Powerwall comes with a 10-year warranty to address reliability concerns. It doesn’t take as much space as most batteries with dimensions of roughly 4 feet by 3 feet by 7 inches and it can be mounted indoors or outside. On the pricing front, the new battery debuted in two models: one costing $3,500 and another one at $3,000. With its new Gigafactory in Nevada, currently under construction, Tesla looks poised to dramatically expand battery production, driving prices much lower in the coming years.
A few hundred residential customers have already been using prototype batteries from SolarCity as part of a pilot project. Walmart has also been testing out electrical storage systems from SolarCity as part of a long-term contract to adopt solar power in its retail locations. These installations have allegedly led to a 20 or 30 percent reduction in energy costs for stores that use the Tesla battery.
As more people come to utilize the powerful combination of solar photovoltaic cells and affordable home batteries, there may be less demand for electricity supplied by utility companies. Some of these firms are fighting this new development by targeting solar users with extra fees but others seem to be positioning themselves as installers and managers of electric infrastructure in order to remain relevant.
The environmental consequences of a large-scale move to solar power would be enormous. Electricity is currently produced mostly using oil and coal, which emit a lot of pollution. In fact, even natural gas is cleaner than these “dirty” resources, producing 25 percent less carbon dioxide than oil and coal, according to ohiogascompanies.com. Solar power produces even less as it is 30 times cleaner than coal, as mnn.com writes. By reducing consumption from the unclean grid and generating clean energy at home, individual people will be able to reduce their carbon footprints while saving money at the same time. It’s currently not cost-effective for homeowners to avoid purchasing electricity altogether but the time may be coming close when this is a realistic possibility for millions.
By harnessing advances in vehicle batteries, solar power generation, and other technologies, Elon Musk may have just created a game-changing device that will affect the whole energy field. The Powerwall battery is an important tool in allowing regular citizens to achieve energy independence cleanly and inexpensively.