Since Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s new home and grid-scale batteries in April of last year, demand for solar battery storage has surged in a big way. Over a billion dollars have been pledged in battery reservation sales, selling out inventory for over a year. Now, Tesla’s CEO, Musk, has announced that he has something else in store for solar battery seekers: a new version of Tesla’s home battery, the Powerwall, will be coming out this summer.
Why Everyone’s Buying Home Batteries
Home batteries are the simplest and best way to solve the solar energy glitch -- the fact that solar is an intermittent energy source, since the sun is not always shining. Experts from the fields of science, engineering, technology, and sustainability are all coming to the same conclusion: energy storage in the form of home batteries are the best way to launch residential use of renewable energy into the future.
Households with rooftop solar are taking their energy systems to the next level with home batteries. They’ll have to if they want to protect the value of the energy generated from their solar panels, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Tesla’s home battery model, the Powerwall, charges using electricity generated from solar panels. According to Musk, every home with solar panels needs a home battery.
“Without a home battery, excess solar energy is often sold to the power company and purchased back in the evening [at a higher price],” Musk argues “The mismatch adds demand on power plants and increases carbon emissions.”
If this sounds like a lose-lose situation, that’s because it is. Houses with solar who don’t also have energy storage like home batteries have no way to use the excess electricity generated during the day when the sun is shining and solar energy is in abundance. When households have solar energy they can’t use, it goes back into the power grid. Often, power companies pay households for giving back the extra power generated by solar, but not as much as they charge for the same amount of electricity later in the day, when people actually need it. Without a home battery, solar customers end up paying extra for the electricity they generated themselves, just like paying the power company to store the energy for them so they can use it later. Instead of giving more money to the power companies, why not just store it yourself? With a home battery, solar households have this opportunity.
Instead of selling electricity back to the grid, home battery owners get to keep their energy, and use it whenever they need it. This eases the workload of power plants, decreasing carbon emissions, and saves money for households with solar at the same time. Taking this into consideration, it’s hard to argue against Elon Musk when he says that all solar panel owners need a home battery. Without a home battery to store excess electricity, solar owners continue to throw money, and energy, at the power companies. Home batteries keep electricity and money in the hands of the consumer.
What’s Special About Tesla’s Powerwall
The Tesla Powerwall is a lithium-ion home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels. Lithium, the lightest of all metals, has the greatest electrochemical potential. This means that lithium provides the highest energy density per weight, far lighter and more efficient than the popular lead acid battery. The growth of lithium-ion technology has brought along with it many advantages. In comparison to batteries that have been popularly used in the past, lithium-ion batteries are cleaner, live longer, recycle better, and require much less maintenance.
Tesla’s Powerwall has gotten a lot of attention for sleek design, but the real headliner is its price. The 7 kWh daily cycle battery is available to installers for a mere $3K ($3.5K for the 10 kWh back-up model). The 220 lb, indoor/outdoor battery comes with a 10-year-warranty, so battery owners know that they not only have plenty of energy at night when the sun goes down, but reliable emergency back-up power as well.
What’s New About the Powerwall 2.0
At an event in Paris, Elon Musk announced that the new Powerwall (or Powerwall 2.0) will be coming out around July or August of this year, and promised a step forward in the home battery’s capabilities. Musk didn’t give many details about the new technology Powerwall 2.0 will possess, but we’ll tell you everything we know:
Though the current Powerwall has an impressive lifecycle, Elon Musk has hinted that the new Powerwall’s lifecycle will be even longer.
Here’s a little background on lithium-ion battery lifecycles: Lithium-ion has a significantly higher cycle life than lead acid in deep discharge applications. This means that lithium-ion batteries can support a higher number of complete charge/discharge cycles before their capacity falls under 80%. Recent data shows that a lead acid battery would have to be 2.5 times larger in capacity than a lithium-ion battery to get comparable cycle life.
The difference in cycle life is even greater in extreme climates. In warm climates where the temperature hovers around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the difference in cycle life between lithium-ion batteries and lead acid models is huge. In these extreme temperatures, it takes less than 1000 charge/discharge cycles for lead acid batteries to drop below 80% in retention, while lithium-ion batteries wouldn’t see that much of a drop until at least 2000 cycles. This huge jump in battery lifetime is an exciting development for consumers who don’t want to worry about their battery capacity dropping when they need power the most.
The exact details of Elon Musk’s Powerwall 2.0’s lifecycle have not been released yet, but we’re excited to see some new advances in lithium-ion battery technology.
New Batteries will be Produced in the New Gigafactory
We were excited to hear that the Powerwall 2.0 will be produced in Tesla’s new Gigafactory, located outside Sparks, Nevada. The new Tesla factory is a masterpiece of new energy technology usage. Musk says that the Gigafactory was “born of necessity,” and will be able to supply enough battery storage to uphold all of Tesla’s production. The Gigafactory is not yet at full capacity, but Elon Musk has promised that “by 2020, the Gigafactory will reach full capacity and produce more lithium ion batteries annually than were produced worldwide in 2013.”
These batteries, like the Powerwall 2.0, will be made at a lower cost because of Tesla’s commitment to creative uses of renewable energy in manufacturing, reducing waste byproducts, and building a factory big enough to house all of the manufacturing process under one roof. With all of this combined, Tesla expects that the cost of each battery will be driven down 30% by kilowatt hour. Not. Bad.
The Gigafactory itself has a goal of achieving net-zero energy status. In other words, the factory will produce the same volume of energy as it uses over the course of a year.
The Future of Home Energy Storage
The past year year was a big one for solar. In fact, 2015 delivered a record amount of new solar energy capacity in the United States. At the same time, a record number of coal-fired power plants were shut down, signifying a major, monumental shift in the U.S. from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The message is clear: people are ready for a new way to generate energy, and new ways to store it.
In the past few years, people all around the United States have installed rooftop solar, started generating their own energy, and demanded to break free from the grid and keep and use their own generated electricity. The energy storage industry showed up in a big way; especially Tesla Motors, with the introduction of the Powerwall home battery. Most economists say the Powerwall debut was the moment home batteries hit the mainstream.
2015 was a “breakout” year for energy storage, changing the way people thought about solar energy. Energy storage, like home batteries, makes the widespread use of solar a viable, appealing option, and many households are taking full advantage of this technology and breaking free from the tenuously balanced power grid. 2015 tripled the number of energy storage deployments than the previous year, bringing the storage industry into the spotlight, and encouraging more companies to invest in energy storage technology.
The Paris summit set the scene for the globe’s energy future, as almost 200 nations agreed to steadily cut emissions, and slow down global warming. This means that countries worldwide are going to have to drastically change the way they generate energy, and the decline of coal will keep on keeping on. Lower-emitting energy forms, namely wind and solar, are going to get a lot of attention in the next decade and beyond, and the United States has already extended incentives, like the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), to motivate a country-wide switch to renewables. It’s no longer a question of whether or not we’re going to see continued growth in the solar and energy storage sectors, but just how quickly things will accelerate.
When Elon Musk’s new creation hits the market, Swell will be first in line to get it into your hands.