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Title: Why Tesla's battery for your home should terrify utilities
Source: The Verge
URL Source: http://www.theverge.com/2015/2/13/8 ... -home-should-terrify-utilities
Published: Feb 14, 2015
Author: Josh Dzieza
Post Date: 2015-02-14 06:31:47 by Willie Green
Keywords: None
Views: 2474
Comments: 6

Elon Musk's electricity empire could mean a new type of power grid

Earlier this week, during a disappointing Tesla earnings call, Elon Musk mentioned in passing that he’d be producing a stationary battery for powering the home in the next few months. It sounded like a throwaway side project from someone who’s never seen a side project he doesn’t like. But it’s a very smart move, and one that’s more central to Musk’s ambitions than it might seem.

To understand why, it helps to look not at Tesla, but at SolarCity, a company chaired by Musk and run by his cousin Lyndon Rive. SolarCity installs panels on people’s roofs, leases them for less than they’d be paying in energy bills, and sells surplus energy back to the local utility. It’s proven a tremendously successful model. Founded in 2006, the company now has 168,000 customers and controls 39 percent of the rapidly expanding residential solar market.

When you have a lot of solar, you need a lot of batteries

Fueled by financing systems like SolarCity’s, government subsidies, and a rapid drop in the price of photovoltaics, solar has been growing fast. But with that growth, some of solar’s downsides are coming to the fore. Obviously, the sun isn’t always shining when you need power, and sometimes the sun is shining when you don’t need power. The former is a problem for the user, who needs to draw on the grid when it’s cloudy or dark; the latter is a problem for the grid, which needs to find a place for that excess energy to go. When there’s a lot of solar in the system, it can get hard to keep the grid balanced.

That’s part of the reason that California, with one of the most aggressive renewable energy mandates in the country, recently declared the most aggressive energy storage mandate as well, with a goal of 1.3 gigawatts of storage by 2020. As other states adopt intermittent renewables like solar and wind, they’ll need to install energy storage too, providing a ready and waiting market for Tesla’s batteries.

Forecast storage market from GTM Research.

This has been part of the plan for the Gigafactory all along. At an event in New York last fall announcing plans for SolarCity to build a gigantic PV-panel factory, Musk and Rive mentioned that every SolarCity unit would come with battery storage within five to ten years, and that the systems would supply power at a lower cost than natural gas. Those batteries will come from the gigafactory, currently being built in Nevada. Once the factory comes online, the strong demand for energy storage will allow it to immediately ramp up production and achieve economies of scale. Tesla CTO JB Straubel (who has said that he "might love batteries more than cars") says that the market for stationary batteries "can scale faster than automotive" and that a full 30 percent of the gigafactory will be dedicated to them.

"I might love batteries more than cars."

Indeed, SolarCity has already begun installing Tesla batteries, mostly on commercial buildings like Walmart stores, which have to pay higher rates when they use lots of power during peak hours. Tesla’s batteries let them store up solar power when they don’t need it, then use it when rates are high, shaving 20-30 percent off their energy bills, according to Ravi Manghani, an analyst at GTM Research.

SolarCity is also running a pilot project with 500 homes in California, according to the company’s director of public affairs, Will Craven. The project uses Tesla’s 10-kilowatt-hour battery packs and can power homes for about two days in the event of an outage, Craven says.

The prospect of cheap solar panels combined with powerful batteries has been a source of significant anxiety in the utility sector. In 2013, the Edison Electric Institute, the trade group for investor-owned electric companies, issued a report warning that disruption was coming. "One can imagine a day when battery storage technology or micro turbines could allow customers to be electric grid independent," the report said, likening the speed of the coming transition to the one from landlines to cellphones 10 years ago. Suddenly regulated monopolies are finding themselves in competition with their own customers.

Utilities have been anxious about this for years

They haven’t had to deal with this on the residential side yet, primarily because people can sell excess power back to the utilities at fairly high rates — a practice called net metering. But that’s hurting utilities, too, and some have tried to lower the price at which they buy back power, which has been met by furious protests from people leasing panels. If utilities lower the buyback rate too much, however, and batteries get cheap enough, people may just unplug from the grid altogether — or more likely, install systems that let them rely on it only rarely — prompting what those in the industry call "the utility death spiral." It’s quite a bind: by fighting net metering, utilities would help make battery storage more economically viable, driving the transition to a distributed grid.

Manghani believes utilities aren’t doomed, but they may undergo a radical transformation, becoming something closer to service providers and minders of an increasingly distributed grid rather than the centralized power producers they are today. Such a system would require lots of batteries to help balance the load and supply extra power during peak times, which is why GTM estimates the market will grow from $48 million today to about $1 billion in 2018.

This is the position SolarCity is taking as well. Last April, Peter Rive, SolarCity’s CTO, wrote that the company had no interest in prompting mass defections from the grid. "When batteries are optimized across the grid, they can direct clean solar electricity where (and when) it is needed most, lowering costs for utilities and for all ratepayers," he wrote. Utilities are in the best position to direct that electricity, he said, inviting utility operators to contact him. Will Craven, Solar City’s director of public affairs, calls it "infrastructure as a service."

Utilities aren’t doomed, but they may undergo a radical transformation

It would be a tricky transition, but some utilities may be open to it. During an earnings call last year, Straubel, Tesla’s CTO, said they were working with utilities. "The long-term demand for stationary energy storage is extraordinary," he said. "We’ve done a huge amount of effort there and have talked to major utilities and energy service companies."

Another potential bright spot for utilities is Tesla itself. If electric vehicles take off, demand for power will go up, helping compensate for people whose homes are relying less on the grid.

"They’re part of the electricity network."

All this is very good news for Musk, who starts to look less like a carmaker and more like the architect of a vertically integrated energy company, with SolarCity making solar panels that send power to Tesla batteries, both in the home and on the road.

"They’re not just carmakers," Manghani says. "They’re part of the electricity network. At least folks in the energy industry are very well aware of Tesla as a battery maker." (2 images)

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#1. To: Willie Green (#0)

Batteries are not permanent fixtures for electrical energy storage; they require continuous maintenance and/or replacement; they have to be protected from over-charging and depending upn the materials used, require outgassing on a periodic basis.

Your automobile reveals the problem from a personal perspective. Have you ever replaced a battery? Of course you have replaced a battery. A home energy plant represents the same problem (albeit multiplied by a factor of 10) for maintenace and/or replacement and there is no majiick panacea.

Pridie.Nones  posted on  2015-02-14   7:12:31 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: Willie Green (#0)

"I might love batteries more than cars." -JB Straubel

Batteries are yesterday's tech. At least until there's a major breakthrough. All the US needs is millions of houses with literally billions of pounds of batteries (they're heavy- Tesla model s battery weighs in at >1,300 pounds) that will one day need to be replaced. They're not environmentally friendly to make or dispose of and they constantly leak power, so they're inefficient.

This Musk character is a cross between PT Barnum and Moe from the 3 stooges. He's in way over his head- Tesla cars have major problems (drive unit) and they are losing millions of dollars every quarter (last 1/4- $100 million)- the 2 billion cash won't last even until his GiggleFactory is supposed to be cranking out lithium ion cells. Toyota and BMW bailed at exactly the right time- obviously they know something. The stock has lost almost $100 per share in the last 6 months.

Talking about hyperloops and trips to Mars help distract from the fact that they are basically a rich man's niche car company with lots of problems. But hey they sold 200 cars in China last month.

Tesla Drive unit problems
http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/29834-Drive-Unit-Replacement-Poll
Some people are on their 4th drive unit (like Edmunds.com) and every car they sold in Norway will need a new one.

Japan will soon introduce home power systems they've been perfecting to the rest of the world that will prove he's banking on a dying tech.

Japan Promotes Home Fuel Cell on Path to Hydrogen Society

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Japan is working on doing for the hydrogen fuel cell what it accomplished with computer chips and cars in the last century, slashing costs to make them more appealing to consumers.

As fuel-cell technology finds its way into factories and commercial buildings, Japanese manufacturers including Panasonic Corp. are working to make them small and cheap enough for the home. The country has set a goal of installing them in 5.3 million homes by 2030, about 10 percent of all households.

With 100,000 already installed, residential fuel cells fit into Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vision of a “hydrogen society,” using the most abundant element in the universe as an alternative to nuclear power and fossil fuels. The systems produce electricity through a chemical reaction that also generates heat, which is captured to make hot water for homes...
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-12-09/japan-promotes-home-fuel-cell-on-path-to-hydrogen-society

Con Artist/Liar Elon Musk's glory days are just about over.Watch the stock, and their 10Q's.

Operation 40  posted on  2015-02-14   7:27:27 ET  (1 image) Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Willie Green (#0)

Not one word about cost. Photovoltaic solar panels to collect the power, the batteries to store it, DC/AC converters, voltage regulators, transfer switches, maintenance.

What's break even ... 200 years?

"This $300,000 system saved us $19.50 last month on our electric bill! Go Green!

misterwhite  posted on  2015-02-14   10:06:49 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: Willie Green (#0) (Edited)

I wouldn't bet against further advancements in solar and battery technology. I believe solar cells will continue to become more efficient, more reliable and cheaper. Same with electric car battery technology. Those batteries will become more powerful, will fully recharge in less time and will become cheaper.

I have full faith and confidence in the continued advancement of science and technology, mainly by etrepuernarial auspices, and not by the government. As Francis Bacon proposed, it is here for mankind's benefit.

TEA Party Reveler  posted on  2015-02-14   12:52:38 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: Willie Green, Y'ALL (#0)

The systems, known generically in Japan as Ene-Farms, are about the size of a refrigerator and run on hydrogen extracted from city gas that’s delivered through existing pipes.

How much natural gas is used by these $16,600 units to supply electricity to the average house, and what's their useful life, with little or no maintenance?

If they're not much cheaper, it's a pipe dream.

tpaine  posted on  2015-02-14   13:07:30 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: misterwhite (#3)

" "This $300,000 system saved us $19.50 last month on our electric bill! Go Green! "

LOL, yeah, going green sounds good, until you put a dollar figure to it, LOL!

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Stoner  posted on  2015-02-14   20:58:54 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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