The PowerWall battery (left) with a Tesla car.

The transition to renewables has received a much-needed boost with Tesla’s announcement of a suite of battery technology for homes, businesses and utilities that it says could see half the world’s dirtiest power stations shut down.

Called “the missing piece to building a sustainable future”, the rechargeable lithium-ion battery technology is something Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk said was a safe, secure, complete and cost-effective solution that could transition the world away from fossil fuels.

Tesla’s PowerWall battery

For the home, the cost of the wall-mounted battery system was US$3000 for a 7kWh system and US$3500 for a 10kWh system. The price included the battery pack, a liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter, though not installation or inverter costs.

While Australia may have to wait til next year for the batteries, reports say, shipping for the US will begin in 3-4 months time.

The news came at the same time AGL Energy in Australia announced its own battery storage technology, Power Advantage, with the first device a 6kWh system “the size of a large suitcase”.

Business solutions

Tesla also announced larger systems for business and utilities.

For business, the systems were “based on the powertrain architecture and components of Tesla electric vehicles”, and would allow businesses to:

  • maximise consumption of on-site clean power
  • avoid peak demand charges
  • buy electricity when it’s cheapest
  • get paid by utility or intermediate service providers for participating in grid services
  • back up critical business operations in the event of a power outage

Battery blocks of 100kWh could also be grouped together to provide utility-scale storage.

Announcing the technology at a livestreamed event in California, a nervous Elon Musk told the waiting audience a “fundamental transformation of how the world works” was needed.

The current system based on a majority of fossil fuels could not continue, Musk said.

“I think we collectively should do something about this, and not try to win the Darwin Award, for us and a lot of other creatures as well,” he said.

“And the solution is in two parts. Part 1: the sun.”

This was “a handy fusion reactor in the sky”, Musk told the audience.

“You don’t have to do anything. It just works.”

The problem was that the sun didn’t shine at night, and energy generation wasn’t smooth during the day.

Part 2 of the solution, obviously, was batteries.

“The issue with existing batteries is that they suck,” Musk said.  “They’re expensive, unreliable, stinky, ugly… you need to combine multiple systems.”

Tesla had solved these issues, he said.

Musk described the home PowerWall system as looking “like as beautiful sculpture on the wall”.

Being wall-mounted was “vital”, he said, because it took up minimal space, and could fit on the wall in the garage or even outside.

He said the solution offered peace of mind in regards to power outages, and even provided the option of going “completely off-grid”.

The whole spectacle of the conference, Musk told the audience at the end, had been powered by Tesla batteries and charged by sunlight – impressive mostly because the event didn’t start for close to an hour after the time announced.

Musk’s vision for the future of Tesla batteries is about quite literally taking over the world.

For the world to transition to renewable energy generation, including all transport and heating, it would require two billion of Tesla’s 100kWh PowerPack systems.

“Is that a crazy number or an impossible number?” he asked.

Not really, if you take into account that’s around the number of vehicles on the world’s roads, he said, a number that gets refreshed approximately every 20 years.

“That’s the future we need to have,” Musk said. ‘It’s the only path I know that can do this.

“It’s something we must do, can do and will do.”

Tesla obviously won’t be the only company pushing battery storage.

Indeed, AGL Energy in Australia today announced its own Power Advantage solution – the first Australian energy company to do so.

“The first device will be capable of storing 6kWh of solar energy and will suit an average family home with 3-4.5kW of solar PV,” AGL’s energy storage lead Ed Lynch-Bell said. “The battery storage device, however, could be used in a home without solar PV. The battery will be the size of a large suitcase and will provide consumers with backup for essential home services such as lighting, refrigeration and communications, a welcome peace of mind for potential disruptions of energy supply.”

2 replies on “Tesla’s battery announcement another nail in the coal coffin”

  1. The offer of a battery for $3500 is interesting

    There is however the cost of the solar installation, DC/AC converters and battery chargers- making a 10kWh system cost in the order of $25k!

  2. Not sure your article heading is necessarily right. The payback of a battery may be better for those without solar who use off peak to charge the battery and discarge it during peak periods. This would reduce peak demand but not necssarily replace coal as a fuel source.

    The charging of electric cars is another issue that complicates the discussion. Time of charging and fuel source of charger being major issues. Coal may replace petrol in this case….its certainly interesting times.

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