Off the grid — Tesla unveils batteries for home, business energy storage

American electric-carmaker Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) is taking its expertise off the roads and into homes in a bid to change power consumption. 

Tesla's Powerwall can be mounted inside people's homes to store energy generated from solar panels | Photo: Tesla

American electric-carmaker Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) is taking its expertise off the roads and into homes in a bid to change power consumption.

Founder Elon Musk says his company’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Powerwall, will create "a fundamental transformation of how the world works."

“The obvious problem with solar power is that the sun does not shine at night. I think most people are aware of this,” he said during the battery’s Thursday evening (April 30) unveiling in California.

“We need to store the energy that is generated during the day so that you can use it at night.”

The Powerwall tap in to solar panels to generate and store power at residential and commercial spaces. The devices, which weigh 100 kilograms and are 18 centimetres in depth by 1.3 metres in height, will cost US$3,500 for the 10 kWh model and US$3,000 for the 7 kWh model.

“The issue with existing batteries is that they suck,” Musk said, adding current models are too expensive and unreliable.

Tesla’s home and office devices are wall-mounted, plug directly into existing solar systems and can be stacked on top of each other to boost energy storage.

Utility companies throughout the world are transitioning to charging higher rates during peak hours, usually the mornings and evenings when energy usage is at its highest.

By storing energy generated from solar panels throughout the day, users will be able to tap in to the Powerwall during those peak hours to pay less as well as put less straing on the utility companies.

And because the devices can be stacked on top of each other for additional storage capacity, Musk said people would be able to generate enough power to go completely off-grid.

“This is going to be a great solution for people in remote parts of the world,” he said.

“What we’ll see is something similar to what happened with cell phones vs. landlines, where the cell phones actually leapfrogged the landlines.”

Energy storage solutions have increasingly become a holy grail of sorts for tech companies.

Vancouver startup ZincNyx Energy Solutions Inc. has been developing a zinc-based flow battery that can store energy for commercial purposes. Like the Powerwall, ZincNyx’s battery can also tap in to solar panels for power generation and storage.

“It’s a worldwide market. It’s not going away,” CEO Suresh Singh told Business in Vancouver.

“If you prove that your technology is going to work, you can write your ticket.”

He expects the energy grid is going to change fundamentally in the coming years after companies spent years focusing on solar energy solutions.

Because the price of solar has fallen so significantly recently, Singh said the focus is now being directed toward storing all the energy that is generated.

The company, which was named April 30 as a finalist for the B.C. Technology Industry Association’s impact award, has partnered with Teck Resources (NYSE: TCK) and will be installing its first system on a worksite this summer.

“Solar is going to be the key. I think, though, with the right partners, we’ve got something great here,” Singh said.

torton@biv.com

@reporton