The Tesla Powerwall: future of clean energy?

Elon Musk, long considered to be our real-world Tony Stark, unveiled a few days back Tesla Energy, his ambitious new company with an equally ambitious vision: transforming the way we create, consume, and store electrical energy. The company’s first product is the Powerwall, a new home battery, designed from the ground up by the folks who brought to the world the Tesla Model S, Model X, and SpaceX.

Aimed at making general consumers less dependent on the grid (which distributes power generated by powerplants using mainly natural gas and coal), the Powerwall, produced at Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, will be ready for purchase in three to four months according to Musk. It will be available through a handful of installation partners, with the price starting at $3,000 for the 7kWh model and, theoretically speaking, may be scaled up to industrial and utility levels. For more demanding industrial applications however, a larger, more industrial-focused battery called the Powerpack was also introduced.

According to founder Musk, the goal is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy. “It sounds crazy, but we want to change the entire energy infrastructure of the world to zero carbon.”

The Powerwall will be available in a multitude of colors, and will be best paired with a system of solar panels from other manufacturers. Nevertheless, the Tesla Energy CEO also pointed out that the Powerwall will also work for non-solar systems AKA traditional electrical power in cases such as power outages or fluctuations. Another use case pointed out is the ability to avoid drawing on electricity from the grid during peak periods of the day when prices are the most expensive.

The Powerwall was based on the Tesla Model S battery. It will be connected to the Internet, which will allow for the creation of localized smart energy grids. A total of 9 Powerwalls, representing up to 90 kWh of power, can be stacked per home, with the Powerpack being capable of infinite scalability, says Musk.

For an overview of its spec sheet, see the summary below:

  • Technology: Wall mounted, rechargeable lithium ion battery with liquid thermal control.
  • Models: 10 kWh (priced at $3,500) for backup applications; 7 kWh (priced at $3,000) for daily cycle applications
  • Warranty: 10 years
  • Efficiency: 92% round-trip DC efficiency
  • Power: 2.0 kW continuous, 3.3 kW peak
  • Voltage: 350 – 450 volts
  • Current:5.8 amp nominal, 8.6 amp peak output
  • Compatibility: Single phase and three phase utility grid compatible
  • Operating Temperature:-4°F to 110°F / -20°C to 43°C
  • Enclosure: Rated for indoor and outdoor installation
  • Installation: Requires installation by a trained electrician (DC-AC inverter not included)
  • Weight: 220 lbs / 100 kg
  • Dimensions: 1300 mm x 860 mm x 180 mm
  • Certification: NRTL listed to UL standards

A number of installation partners around the US will be partnering with Tesla Energy for the Powerwall. This includes Treehouse, Solar Edge, Green Mountain Power, and Solar City, where Musk has an investment stake. Leasing options will be offered by this partners to help consumers handle the costs of the Powerwall. Installation should be under an hour, according to Musk, so this should not add significant costs to the already expensive device.

As an engineer and an avid technology fan, I can’t help but be excited about this latest innovation from Tesla. Although the product (essentially a giant lithium ion battery) is by itself not very exciting, the potential impact and applications of the Powerwall can’t be overstated. In a world that faces rapid climate change, deforestation, overpopulation and epidemics, the implications of total zero carbon emissions from powerplants and automobiles are just unimaginable. Case in point, as Musk eloquently pointed out during the press conference, remote villages and islands, previously unreachable by power lines, now have the potential to access and store electricity. This will eventually open the doors for better health services, community development, security and education in said areas.

Images courtesy of Tesla Energy

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