When it comes to imagining the power of humanity to change the world for the better, nobody puts teeth into the conversation like Elon Musk. His latest venture, the PowerWall Home Battery, is set to lead a revolution in the way we use and distribute power.
We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun- you don’t have to do anything, it just works
Elon Musk, describing his Tesla PowerWall Home Battery
What is it: a plug-n-play battery system that’s designed for use with solar panels. It costs $3,000-$3,500 and it looks like art, not a battery pack. Store off-grid energy for home or industrial use in an affordable, slick and shiny box that looks capable of winning design awards- what’s not to love?
Here’s how the PowerWall works
The Tesla PowerWall is the first product to roll off the line from the new company called Tesla Energy. This is the first large battery pack that actually makes private energy storage look feasible.
First of all, PowerWalls are designed to last 10 years with no maintenance. They do require a professional for installation, however. Also, you can stack up to nine of them together for increased output.
Will this work for the power-fat & lazy demand?
Here’s why we need PowerWalls.
The tiny country of Costa Rica is 100% powered by renewable energy…or at least it went for 75 days straight that way. Easy for them to do: after all they are a small country, they have lots of sun, and no baggage when it comes to political, historical, and economic ties to Big Oil – US.
Besides, the way Costa Rica weaned itself off oil and other non-renewable energy sources is not a solution fit for all. Costa Rica use geothermal to some degree, but mainly hydro electric power. As an example, the US is simply too large and diverse (topographically) to run on water power, similar issue with the United Kingdom. Consider the droughts in the west of the US or the north of Africa and you will understand why a power source that needs constant rainfall is not a large-scale solution.
Musk’s PowerWall could be the massive solution we have been waiting for on solar energy
Elon Musk maintains that PowerWalls could power the country from solar panels covering only a tiny fraction of land…or better yet: rooftops.
The main problem is no longer space for panels, but storage. We are using the sun’s energy mainly in direct usage mode, meaning once the sun goes down we are done using solar for the day. Before Mr. Musk came along, battery technology was primitive, which meant batteries were unreliable, cost-prohibitive, and inefficient. In France most solar panel owners re-seel their unused generated energy to national energy provider.
PowerWalls are different, though. They efficiently store energy for nighttime, when most electricity is used. What is more, the energy can come from any source, even the grid. Enter “smart charging”.
What, no solar panels in your life? No problem. Tesla PowerWalls can also be used to draw energy from the grid when it’s cheaper. Store it up and use it during peak times (in the evening) when rates go higher.
Batteries make it possible for homes, businesses and utilities to smooth out their energy reserves. Let’s say someone is relying on wind power- when the wind dies down and production stops, they revert to battery power. Or consider a heat wave in the south- peak demand often causes brown-outs or interruption in service while the utility struggles to meet increased demand for energy to cool buildings. PowerWalls can bridge those gaps in output, smoothing everything out.
Where we are at right now with the PowerWall?
What we’re talking about…is a fundamental transformation of how the world worksElon Musk
Currently, the PowerWall is ideal in these circumstances:
- where energy is expensive (Denmark, Spain, Japan, California, Hawaii …)
- sunny places & an already established solar power base (US, UAE, Egypt …)
- remote areas where power is unreliable
- developing countries: people there leapfrog the need for existing power systems
Change is coming, but we are not there yet. Output is still not where Musk would like it to be. The average home will need 2 Tesla power walls…not because it can’t store energy, but because the output at this time is limited (one Tesla power wall can handle 10kw hours but it’s only capable of 2 kw per hour of continuous power output).
Despite what you may think, Musk can’t do this alone
Ultimately, the adoption of solar power on a massive scale will change the world. The Tesla PowerWall is only a first-generation product and you have already seen its limitations. But it is just a start, as were those laughably boxy 80s mobile phones that hardly worked and could not keep a charge.
The first generation of any product is always a primitive laughing stock by the time it reaches its later stages of refinement. As competition grows, battery packs for home and industrial use will get even better.
Elon Musk is certainly aware of this, which is why the patents for his PowerWall are open source. Anyone can use them, so he is really putting his money where his mouth is when he says he wants to change the world.
From battery walls to making electric cars trendy to probing space with SpaceX, Elon Musk is not only ridding the world of dirty energy- he’s changing it too.