Battery Boredom—Does Tesla Have the Answer?

HiResBatteries are obviously not a new technology. Every grocery and convenience store sells a variety of small-scale batteries for use in household devices and hobbyists dedicated to making their own storage units can cobble together strings of batteries to create longer-term solutions. But the storage side of renewable energy sources—wind, geothermal, and especially solar—has been largely overlooked because it’s not exciting or revolutionary.

Now, entrepreneur Elon Musk of Telsa motors and Space X has introduced new “Powerwall” technology which is sleek, sexy and simple. Is this the answer to consumer battery boredom?

All-In-One

According to a recent Value Walk article, Tesla’s Powerwall is gaining traction. Last month, the 7 kWh, $3000 “daily use” and 10 kWh, $3500 backup units debuted to much fanfare—pre-orders are already off the charts. There’s also an installation charge for both, but come with the software and switching necessary to connect with either solar panels or your residential electricity grid so you can stock up on power when rates are low.

Musk’s focus here seems to be on minimizing complexity and cost, allowing homeowners to easily and (relatively) cheaply start the transition from grid to solar energy. Director of the Northeastern University Center for Renewable Energy Technology, Sanjeev Mukerjee, says that the falling price of solar panels will help Tesla’s new technology, especially in places like the southern United States where solar power is abundant during non-peak times but not readily available when homeowners need electricity during the late night or early morning hours. Having a robust, reliable battery could change all that.

Ducking the Problem

Of course, going solar isn’t all warm sunshine and bright skies. According to In Daily, improved conversion rates from both concentrated solar power (CSP) and residential rooftop solar installations has led to a unique problem: Over-generation. In areas where sunshine and solar panels are plentiful, sun-driven power generation systems can flood local grids with excess power while home units allow owners to side-step the need for existing power suppliers. The result is an unbalanced demand/use ratio where more power is produced than needed, leading to a “duck curve” effect which could play havoc with existing energy distribution channels.

There’s also the issue of cost. While Telsa’s Powerwall and other solar initiatives are rapidly coming do in price, just four battery installations—enough to supply a residential home—is around $12,000. With traditional energy coming in at just over $1,400 per year, it will take homeowners at least eight years to break even if nothing in the system fails or breaks.

Verdict? Elon Musk’s new solar initiative is the first step in taking energy storage mainstream. It’s sleek, well-priced and by all accounts extremely effective; it may not be the end game, but it’s far from boring.

Next Steps:

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