Can the Tesla Battery Solve Our Energy Storage Problems?

While the popularity of green technologies such as solar pv have grown considerably over the last few years, there remains a long standing problem. These panels only produce electricity when the sun is shining on them which means the battle has been on to find a way of storing that generated power for use when it is most needed – at night. We have the same problem with wind power. The wind doesn’t always blow.

For many industry insiders, the future of renewable energy is not necessarily about generating technology but about how we keep that power for when we most need it.

Essentially, our methods of generating electricity in the renewable industry are transient. It’s why the technologies often have their detractors. You can’t have an energy source if it’s not 100% reliable. It’s an issue that has played heavily on the mind of those who are fanatical about renewable energy. Over the years, there have been various batteries and devices brought onto the market that have fallen by the wayside because they are either too expensive or just plain inefficient. It’s been a struggle.

Until now.

Enter the Tesla Powerball. The developers boast that it can hold 10 kWh of electricity and it comes at a realistic cost of a little over £2,000. You might know Tesla as a car manufacturers and wonder why they are now moving into the arena of powering homes.

What is the Tesla Battery?

The truth is that car makers Tesla have put a lot of money and research into developing a lithium ion battery that can be used in hybrid vehicles. These batteries are designed to charge quickly and are found in a range of gadgets over and above cars.

The lithium ion battery for homes which have solar panels or some other kind of electricity generating system will be slightly different, available in 7 kWh and 10 kWh models. They may well charge a little more slowly than their mobile counterparts but the hope is that they will revolutionise local energy production. For Tesla, it’s a market that has a great deal of potential, evidenced by the promise that more developers and manufacturers are expected to come on board, helping to bring the price down and make it a real storage option for many households.

Tesla Home Battery
Tesla Home Battery

The pros and cons of a Tesla Battery

  • At the moment, the cost of a Tesla battery could well put people off but the price should come down quickly as competition increases.
  • It provides households a viable way of storing electricity for use when there is no production from solar panels or other renewable technologies.
  • Is 10 kWh enough? That may be the most meaningful question for a lot households. 1 kWh can run a laptop for a couple of days, or one cycle for a washing machine, or even boil your kitchen kettle about ten times. How many batteries will be needed to power a home properly?
  • Tesla are arranging a slow release of the batteries because they don’t want to flood the market and need to build up the manufacturing base so it may take some time for them to become readily available in the UK.
  • Whilst Tesla in America has led the way so far, don’t be surprised if the Chinese suddenly sprint to the front of the line – companies such as BYD are working on their own storage batteries for domestic and commercial usage.
  • The batteries could start a major revolution and have an enormous impact on less well developed areas of the world. Banks of batteries can be used to store power from solar panels and feed into whole communities.

Many experts are saying that the Tesla home battery is a high risk strategy and one of the primary factors working against it is the initial cost. In these cash strapped times, the company may well have trouble getting its message across to consumers. Most solar panels link into the grid in the UK and US and there is no problem with keeping the power going during the night because it is a two way process. Those with solar panels benefit from the Feed in Tariff and may not be looking to be totally self-sufficient as those in remote areas need to be.

It is probably the case that in the UK and similar well-developed areas people will wait for the price to come down a lot more before they add it to their homes. Despite this, the future could indeed have us all using solar panels in conjunction with a storage battery. According to Alasdair Cameron from Friends of the Earth: “…wind and solar, are changing the way we make and use energy – and electricity storage is an important part of that change. Cheaper and more efficient energy storage means individuals and businesses could save renewable energy until they need it, hugely reducing the need for climate-changing fossil fuels.”

There’s no doubt that if we can crack the power storage problem it will cause a major sea change in the taking up of renewable energy and our dependence on outside fossil fuel generated electricity. How quickly this develops depends largely on how much the price comes down for businesses and home owners and that itself is dependent on different manufacturers and suppliers coming onto the market.