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Author's profile photo Derek Klobucher

Storing Renewable Energy with Tesla Motors Technology

Oil, gas and coal helped power the Industrial Revolution, but humans have to tear up the planet to extract these energy sources. Burning them pollutes the environment, but people can use these power sources whenever they like.

Tesla Powerwall Model S 05-01-2015-A.jpg
A wall-mounted Tesla Powerwall battery (left) charges an all-electric Tesla Motors Model S sedan. (photo courtesy of Tesla Motors)

Wind and solar power are great because they’re renewable, but there’s been no viable way to store their energy.

Until now.

Drive You Up A Wall

Billionaire Elon Musk, CEO of the all-electric car company Tesla Motors and chairman of solar energy service provider Solar City, has melded the two worlds to solve this problem. Thursday night, he unveiled the Tesla Powerwall, a wall-mounted 3.9 x 52.1-inch (86.1 x 132.3-cm) battery that stores charges from solar panels or the grid during off-peak hours — and serves as backup power during outages.

“We are talking about trying to change the fundamental energy infrastructure of the world,” Musk said at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne, Calif. “You can be free of the grid.”

Tesla Energy is a suite of batteries for use in homes and businesses, as well as utilities, with the end goal of eliminating the planet’s dependence on fossil fuels. That vision starts with two Powerwall products.

The 7.1-inch (18-cm) thick Powerwall panels will sell for between $3,000 and $3,500. The cheaper 7kWh version is for normal daily use, and an enhanced 10kWh version would be better for backup power — a useful feature in homes during a blackout.

Balance of Power

“Most businesses … pay more for electricity when demand is high — also the hours they are likely to be open — and less in the middle of the night, when demand is low,” Los Angeles Times stated on Thursday. “Storage would allow them to charge batteries at night with low-cost electricity for use during the peak-rate times during the day.”

Other energy providers are taking similar tacks to Tesla Motors and SolarCity, partnering with energy storage companies, according to The New York Times on Friday. Auto analysts seem to like Tesla’s move into portable energy, which has broad appeal, and energy experts indicate that “solar-plus-storage” is a smart way to look at renewable energy.

“Tesla has the advantage of reach and scale,” The New York Times stated, “as well as a $5 billion battery production plant under construction near Reno, Nev.”

More Power To You

Musk began calling Teslas colossal manufacturing space “Gigafactory 1” during his keynote on Thursday night, adding, “There will need to be many gigafactories in the future.” This is consistent with Tesla’s relentless pace of product development from yesterday’s Roadster to today’s Model S, Supercharger and Powerwall — to tomorrow’s Model X and Model 3.

“Musk is known for dropping subtle hints like these in passing, and we could parse all of this in a number of ways,” Business Insider stated on Friday. “But suffice it to say Tesla is not done yet, and there are certainly more innovations to come.”

Thanks to technological breakthroughs such as this, we can finally — and realistically — hope that the sun and wind will power humanity’s next revolution.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher

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