Dominating the markets for electric cars and space technologies apparently isn't enough for tech whiz Elon Musk, who revealed Thursday night that his company, Tesla Motors (he also runs SpaceX), plans to start making and selling stationary batteries for home-based energy storage. Used in combination with rooftop solar panels, batteries like Tesla's new Powerwall could help humanity transition away from fossil fuels, Musk said.
During his unveiling of the Powerwall at Tesla's California design studios, Musk (pictured) said the technology is "designed to scale infinitely," with a powerpack configuration of 160 million batteries capable of replacing all fossil-fueled electricity generation in the U.S. He also revealed that the entire night's presentation had been powered by Powerwall batteries charged using the facility's photovoltaic panels.
Tesla plans to begin delivering lithium-ion Powerwall batteries to customers and distributors this summer. A 10 kilowatt-hour Powerwall will cost $3,500, while a 7 kilowatt-hour battery will run $3,000. It's likely those costs could drop after Tesla begins production at its Nevada Gigafactory, currently under construction and expected to start operating in 2017.
'Fantastic Prices for Uninterruptible Power'
Writing in a commentary on Gizmodo, Princeton mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Dan Steingart said, "These are fantastic prices for an uninterruptible power supply -- but still expensive as day-to-day electricity."
We reached out to Steingart to learn more about what he thought of Musk's latest innovation. He told us that while the batteries would currently be a costly choice for the average home-energy user, they could be effective for backup electricity "where power quality is critical."
Tesla has already identified a number of Powerwall distribution partners, including the Vermont-based utility company Green Mountain Power. Other partners include the photovoltaic inverter maker SolarEdge and TreeHouse, a home improvement store focused on sustainable building products.
Could Be 'Wedge into a New Market'
Steingart, who noted in his Gizmodo article that he thinks about "big, cheap batteries for a living," told us that the Powerwall battery appears to be about as cost-effective a stationary battery as current technology allows.
"My lab is working on this stuff, and we have leads," Steingart said. "But it's hard. Tesla's solution is reasonable based on current hardware costs: I couldn't build this system myself for less money. $350/kWhr for 10 years/500 cycles is among the best I've seen proposed, and at the scale Tesla is talking about, if realized, a wedge into a new market."
Homeowners who purchase Powerwall batteries will need trained electricians to install their systems. They will also need to purchase power inverters and other electronics, so the total installation price will certainly be higher than what Tesla has quoted.
However, as Musk said during his presentation on Thursday, a stationary battery system like Powerwall "gives you peace of mind." Even in situations where storms or ice knock out the power grid, he said, "You don't have to worry about being out of power."
Posted: 2015-05-03 @ 12:58am PT
What Steingart is saying is not true for new home construction and home wiring is simple anyway as your area's electrical inspector is there to assist. i utilize two separate system. much of your power needs are dc not ac. I don't understand why anyone needs 110/120 for lighting.