Tesla’s new battery is in most respects a great thing Video presentation you tube

From reducing power bills to revolutionising our dependence on fossil fuels, people are expecting big things from Elon Musk’s latest offering.

Elon Musk talks up solar's potential at the launch of Tesla Energy.image www.energy-options.info

“We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun”: Elon Musk talks up solar’s potential at the launch of Tesla Energy. Photo: YouTube

Billionaire Elon Musk is in the business of big ideas, from electric cars to space travel. But his latest venture, affordable batteries to power homes and industry, might be the biggest yet.

What is the Powerwall, and the Powerpack?

On April 30 Musk unveiled two new batteries that can store electricity from either the grid or a renewable energy source like solar.

Tesla Energy Powerwall home battery image www.energy-options.info

Plug in: the new Tesla Energy Powerwall home battery. Photo: Reuters

The Powerwall is a compact, wall-mounted, rechargeable, lithium-ion battery designed for homes and small businesses. Most existing systems for home power storage use lead-acid batteries, which require much more space and, in some cases, maintenance.

Powerwalls will come in a range of colours and two sizes – 7 kilowatt-hour and 10 Kwh. The units can be stacked together to increase power capacity. A typical four-person Victorian home uses between 16 and 20 Kwh a day, depending on the season.

The Powerpack, meanwhile, is a larger unit designed for utility scale, and can store 100 Kwh.

Elon Musk's Tesla Energy presentation was powered entirely by solar power stored in Tesla batteries.image www.energy-options

Energy in action: Elon Musk’s Tesla Energy presentation was powered entirely by solar power stored in Tesla batteries. Photo: YouTube

What’s the appeal?

The Powerwall can be used for “load shifting” in the home, and also to provide back-up power in the event of an outage.

Load shifting is about spreading energy use for maximum benefit. For instance, if electricity costs more  during peak periods, it makes sense for the household to charge the battery during off-peak times when the price is low, and then switch to battery power when tariffs are high.

For households with solar, unused extra power is often sold to their power company. With a battery, however, they can store the excess power generated during peak production times in the middle of the day, and use it after dark when demand is greatest. One Australian alternative technologies website calculated a single battery could cut use of mains power to 8 per cent a day.

Another advantage for Australians is that power companies pay households less for their excess solar energy than they charge them to buy power.

What makes them different to other batteries?

There are batteries that can match the Powerwall’s performance, but what has people’s jaws dropping is the price.

When Musk announced the 7 Kwh and 10 Kwh units were priced at $US3000 and $US3500 respectively (plus installation), his audience erupted with applause. Some had been expecting a price point in the tens of thousands.

Tesla is building a $US5 billion, 10-million-square-foot “gigafactory” in Reno, Nevada that will allow mass-production of the batteries and keep costs down.


Henry Sapiecha

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