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Insider Insights: Articles

Elon Musk unveils 'missing piece' for a clean energy future

By Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer
Friday, May 1, 2015, 9:50 PM

Elon Musk isn't just launching his own rockets and building cool cars. He wants to help build a bright future, and his new Tesla Energy announcement promises to bring us a step closer to that goal.

To meet our power needs for the future, while preserving Earth's ecosystem, tapping into the abundant energy from the Sun is essential. The cost and efficiency of solar cells are both limiting factors for converting to this clean energy source. Having a way to store energy for later use is another.

While costs have been dropping and efficiencies have been increasing, storage has remained a difficult issue.

Elon Musk's latest announcement, though, may be the missing piece we need.

What is this missing piece? The new line of batteries that Tesla Motors has put on the market, called Tesla Energy. 

According to Tesla Motor's website:

Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at a residential level for load shifting, backup power and self-consumption of solar power generation. Powerwall consists of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. The unit mounts seamlessly on a wall and is integrated with the local grid to harness excess power and give customers the flexibility to draw energy from their own reserve.
The battery can provide a number of different benefits to the customer including:
• Load shifting – The battery can provide financial savings to its owner by charging during low rate periods when demand for electricity is lower and discharging during more expensive rate periods when electricity demand is higher
• Increasing self-consumption of solar power generation – The battery can store surplus solar energy not used at the time it is generated and use that energy later when the sun is not shining
• Back-up power – Assures power in the event of an outage
Powerwall increases the capacity for a household’s solar consumption, while also offering backup functionality during grid outages.

The introduction of Tesla Energy could also represent a fundamental shift in energy consumption. With solar panels becoming more common, batteries like this may become the primary energy source, while the power grid may become the backup system.

Costs are certainly a limiting factor now, with a residential battery selling to installers for between $3000 (7 kwH) and $3500 (10 kwH) US. As with all technologies, though, costs will come down with time, and this combination will virtually eliminate the home electricity bill. Even charging an electric vehicle can be done off-the-grid.

In Canada?

Although this technology will be more useful at latitudes closer to the equator, where the amount of solar energy received is greater, Canada's northern location isn't as much of a limiting factor as one might think.

Based on a recent report titled Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, Canada has a vast potential for solar power.

Cold winters may have an impact on battery life - a concern currently voiced regarding the use of electric cars - however improvements in the technology will make this more and more attractive as time goes on.

Sources: Tesla Motors | Sustainable Canada Dialogues (PDF)

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