Tesla Introduces Whole-Home Batteries

Tesla batteriesIt’s easy to imagine your clock, cell phone, or cordless screwdriver running on a battery, but how about your whole house? Elon Musk’s innovative company Tesla Motors, maker of the popular line of electric vehicles, announced recently, that it will begin production on such a whole-home battery within the next six months.

Imagine being able to store power, such as the energy gathered by a rooftop solar system or a wind turbine, and store it until needed–or even sell it back to the grid, via reverse metering. No more worries about ever-mounting utility costs or power loss due to inclement weather; the feeling of independence and the comfort of acting responsibly about the environment would be enjoyable, as well. These batteries might make that dream of freedom a reality.

Tesla’s plan is ambitious and optimistic, but what challenges might the company face in actually bringing these batteries to market? Well, the obvious one is price–batteries are extremely expensive, as anyone who has fretted over the cost of even a pack of AAs knows. And batteries that could power an entire house would not only be expensive, they would be very large and heavy (a sizable part of the weight of an electric vehicle is simply from its battery).

Because of their size and expense, these home batteries are not something that you would want to replace on a regular basis, so they would need to be reliable enough to last for years, charging and discharging on a regular basis. Even power companies–who could use large batteries to store excess energy produced during less-demanding hours in order to bolster supply during peak times–are only deploying them in a limited and somewhat experimental way, so far.

If even utilities are a bit leery of adopting batteries on a grand scale, how readily could they become staples in a residential neighborhood? Tesla understands it might be slow going for a while, but the company is determined to keep pushing inexorably toward a greener future.

Besides being Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk also chairs the board of Solar City, a company that provides solar power systems for homes and businesses. He can see that more and more homeowners are adopting solar systems, especially as the price has steadily dropped over the past few years. Batteries that store the solar-produced power and discharge it when needed make perfect sense with this type of system, since the sun doesn’t shine all the time. The inevitable growth in demand for the batteries should lower costs, just as it has done with the systems themselves. Whereas before, most of us suburbanites could only dream of powering our homes with sunshine, it’s becoming more and more within our grasp.

Another way Tesla plans to reduce cost to individual consumers is by mass production. Tesla’s “Gigafactory”, currently under construction near Reno, Nevada, will be the world’s largest battery factory, enabling Tesla to help alleviate cost concerns by having the ability to produce the batteries in large quantities. As for any concerns as to reliability, Tesla’s years of deploying the lithium-ion technology in its car batteries has provided a good track record.

Many other companies are poised on the brink of jumping into the storage-battery game and will be watching Tesla’s every innovative move. Even if not all the power is yet produced by clean sources, the use of batteries will still help curb the overproduction of power by the non-clean ones, and that’s a win by any reckoning.

See Also: Oncor Proposes Battery Storage for Texas Electricity Grid

 

 

Far From A Burdon, Electric Vehicles Will Assist The Grid

As electric vehicles have slowly began to transition to the mainstream, some have worried about their impact on the electric grid.  As more real world use data becomes available, it’s looking more and more like those concerns were over blown.  This leads to the next question, since EV’s are not quite the power grid burden we expected, can we somehow create a system that allows electric cars to benefit the larger power structure? This has become the next big endeavor for EV proponents, and up to this point, we are seeing a great deal of promise from emerging technologies.

The most promising of these is certainly vehicle to grid technology. Otherwise known as V2G, vehicle to grid presents a mechanism to meet key requirements of the electric power system by designating the EV’s to act as a form of demand response. When communicating with the power grid as an ancillary service, EV’s can provide frequency regulation by selling electricity through either delivering this power into the grid or throttling their charging rate. This can be looked at as a version of battery to grid power, but applied to vehicles.

In essence, when the grid requires more power to withstand a surge, that power will be tapped from EV’s, rather than traditional power plants. Considering that a car is parked, on average, 95% of the time, the flow of electricity to power lines could bring considerable value per car to utilities over the course of a year.

The key to realizing economic value from V2G is creating a symbiotic relationship with the larger power structure. Once the future smart grids are sophisticated enough to do this on a large scale basis, electric vehicles could help make the system even more reliable. Beyond ancillary services, the future of V2G also includes using the vehicles as a dispersed energy storage for intermittent, but renewable resources, such as wind and solar.

For this to happen though, EV batteries must improve, along with our centralized grid structure. V2G presents complications for the individual batteries, including degradation due to constant cycling, costs related to implementing bidirectional power flow capability (energy storage that can both feed and take power from the grid), metering issues, and complication related to energy guarantees The service life and reliability of batteries could be reduced under such strain, so drivers need an incentive to provide supplementary power to the grid.

Because of the cost premiums related to electric vehicle ownership and power systems interaction, lower EV operational expenses will be a major market driver for innovation and growth. Fortunately, with the gains we are making in energy storage tech, this will likely become less of an issue when V2G reaches the point where it becomes a viable, widescale option.

Electric vehicles are expected to make up close to 7% of all global automobile sales by 2020 (an estimated 6.6 million units sold in that year alone), so the future of EV is bright. Vehicle-to-grid is not only an important supplement to this growth, it is essential.

Along with the ability for technology to provide very fast regulation, it also contributes to environmental protection, system reliability, and oil independence. EV, combined with V2G technology, can provide a more seamless transition to the emerging sustainable energy economy, and by doing so, greatly increasing energy security benefits for the entire population.

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