Tesla has taken a gamble on home electricity storage batteries

Posted on 16 February 2016.

Tesla is producing lithium-ion batteries for buildings. Why? To store electricity that can be used when demand is at its greatest and reduce household bills.

Transforming the energy infrastructure in order to consume less and reduce CO2 emissions is one of tomorrow’s greatest challenges. One of the keys to this energy transformation is energy storage: how can it be stored when it is cheapest and then be restored when demand is high?
Specializing in luxury electric cars, California-based Tesla Motors also owns Solarcity, a photovoltaic panel manufacturer. The combination has led to the creation of Tesla Energy, which designs batteries for the home that can store energy. The principle is simple: the battery is charged by means of solar panels installed on the outside of the building or simply stores energy from the power grid during off-peak hours. Dubbed Powerwall, this compact, stylish battery has a capacity of 7 to 10 kWh, which will fulfil the energy consumption needs of a home for an evening - if there was enough sunshine during the day. The Powerwall attaches to the wall like a radiator and is priced at around 3,000 dollars.

Intelligent buildings equipped with home batteries

Tesla Energy’s Powerwall has a big brother, Powerpack, which can store 100 kWh of electricity. In San Francisco the real estate company Irvine Company was one of the first to take a gamble on this alternative system. It has plans for twenty-four hybrid and eco-sustainable office buildings. A battery field the size of five parking spaces will be installed on each building. The goal is to reduce power consumption by 25% at peak times. The local energy supplier Sun Edison and the start-up Advanced Microgrid Solutions signed an agreement to develop these smart buildings with Irvine Company. The system is likely to be exported to Europe in 2017.

Tesla Energy has announced it has a full order book for early 2016, when the first deliveries of Powerwall will begin. Like Powerpack, Powerwall demonstrates the idea of smart grids and intelligent electricity distribution networks: using technology to better manage power consumption, reduce bills and optimize energy distribution.
As innovative as it is, the Tesla system has to take more things into account before it can be considered virtuous – for example, where and how the solar panels are produced, the use of lithium, which is a natural resource and is therefore limited, and the cost of installing the batteries. If it is a question of using the energy you have stored in your home at another time, it means no additional carbon footprint is generated.