With his electric cars on the streets and his rockets close to landing themselves after space launches, Elon Musk has made successful bets on a wide range of futuristic tech. His next frontier is a bit closer to home–or rather, in homes, as Musk’s Tesla is developing a home-powering battery that could hit the market in six months.
During an investor call on Wednesday (available here), Musk said the designs for the home and business battery are already complete and will likely be unveiled in the next couple months, with production possibly starting in a half year.
Let’s be clear: a home battery would be awesome, mostly because storing energy in off-peak hours to spend during peak hours wouldn’t just save individuals and businesses money–it would ease the strain on energy grids that pursue demand response strategies to deal with higher energy demand during peak hours. Sometimes this means juggling energy along the grid, but often the simplest answer to meet demand is just to fire up temporary electricity-generating plants (often quick-starting but fossil-fuel-burning facilities called peaking power plants).
Batteries that can store the massive volumes of energy from power plants have been inefficient and difficult to develop. Through the 20th century, grids used strategies relying on simple physics like pumping water to a higher elevation during off-peak hours and letting gravity power hydroelectric generators during peak hours. This process, called pump storage hydroelectrics, accounts for a staggering 99% of bulk “energy” storage worldwide. In other words, human beings have yet to develop a better city-scale battery than hauling water uphill to power sleeker water wheels.
Hence the excitement for Tesla’s home battery, which could empower homeowners to store cheaper energy. But factor in the solar panel renaissance and homeowners could store energy they generate themselves–and even pursue the holy grail of renewable energy: selling home-grown power back to energy companies. In the meantime, we’ll stay excited about electric cars acting as inadvertent storage batteries, buying energy low and selling it high.
[via The Washington Post ]