Tesla’s mission statement is to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,” and with Elon Musk at the helm of Tesla, they are well on their way with a series of energy storage initiatives that are coming to fruition.
The birth of the Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada heralds the abundant supply of lithium-ion batteries to power their electric cars. They envision we’ll see 500,000 cars per year in production by the end of the decade. This new facility, powered by renewable energy sources, will reach its full capacity by 2018, producing batteries for less cost. The Gigafactory aims to achieve net zero energy (total amount of energy used is equal to the amount of renewable energy generated). The factory will see 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of battery production capacity every year. The world has started to understand that future renewable energy developments will rely heavily on Tesla-style energy storage capabilities.
Hawaii has embraced solar power early on, as is seen by the number of installations across the state. In 2016, a historic step was taken with a new project in Kaua’i, where solar power continues to supply the electric grid even in the evening hours. This is thanks to an enormous battery system designed by Tesla Energy that is able to store electricity from solar power generated during the day so it can be used in peak evening hours of energy consumption. The local grid will be supplied with up to 13 megawatts in the evening, which will eradicate the use of systems powered by diesel fuel. The Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) and SolarCity made this project a reality with their 20-year power purchase agreement.
Hawaii has stated that they aim to phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2045.
“There is no way that Hawaii will make it to the goal without some technology to store power,” said Michael Champley, commissioner for the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.
At the heart of the success of this project is the understanding that energy storage technology is an essential ingredient in the adoption of renewable energy solutions. This is where Tesla comes to the party. They made a $2.8 billion takeover offer for SolarCity. And just like that, we see the world’s first vertically-integrated clean energy, energy storage, and transport company giant. They could one day be producing your electric car and the energy used to charge it.
You would also be receiving energy in your home and business powered by them with your Model S, X or 3 solar panel system and Powerwall in place. You would immediately start to see energy costs lower while consuming energy in the most sustainable, efficient way. No more dependence on fossil fuels or the grid for your energy needs. The combination of these two companies is a win-win for customers who already share the vision of sustainability and innovation that is the mission of both of these renewable energy champions.
The University of East Anglia (UAE) recently published a study stating that government subsidies are needed in order to encourage investment in energy storage, because it is a vital component in the success of renewable energy. All of the leading renewable technology companies using wind and solar need energy storage systems made by the likes of Tesla to compensate for the hours when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun shining. Without adequate storage, renewable energy deployment is stymied.
Ultimately, investment in energy storage is crucial if countries are to meet their own decarbonization targets.
“We need sufficient storage and more investment in storage systems in order for renewable energy to reach its full potential. Subsidies would encourage investment, which in turn would enable further integration of renewables into the energy sector. The fact that for some days, countries such as Germany and Portugal are running their entire electricity network exclusively on renewable energy shows how far we have come to rely on it as a power source, and this will continue to increase.” Dr Chalvatzis, senior lecturer in business and climate change.
Tesla is not the only mover in the area, but certainly the earliest. It has teamed up with other companies to supply batteries to various projects. For example: in Los Angeles, they are working with Advanced Microgrid Solutions to deliver 50 megawatts of energy storage over several dozen office buildings for Edison International.
Tesla’s batteries pack a lot of energy into a small space, which makes it easier to install next to office buildings in urban neighborhoods, said Susan Kennedy, Advanced Microgrid Solutions’ chief executive.
“Our goal here is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy,” Musk says. “At the extreme scale.”
This market is set to grow dramatically as more and more utilities work out how to use storage in their distribution systems.
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