May 9, 2015

A Tesla on Your Wall?

Want a Tesla in your garage but can't afford the Model S? Don't despair. You can still own a piece of Tesla, in the form of its new Powerwall battery backup system.

You'd have to wait, though: Demand has taken even Tesla by surprise. The first 38,000 units have been reserved. That's the company's output until the middle of 2016. Seems like Tesla is fast establishing itself as the new Apple: They have the vision for introducing disruptive technology, and the industrial design talent that turns every Tesla product into an object of desire.

I mean, this thing is almost too pretty to be consigned to your garage. I don't even have a garage, but I would not at all mind having it on my living room wall. It would certainly make a statement.

But if you have a dream that this battery will help you get off-grid, you'd be disappointed. For that you'd need the daily-cycle kind of Powerwall that would help you through the night when your rooftop PV system's output is nil. That would be the 7kWh Powerwall. But for now, Tesla is not selling that in the US, where it's cheaper to use the grid as your night-time backup.

The Powerwall available to US consumers now is the kind that provides you with occasional backup should the grid power go down. This Powerwall is not meant to be cycled daily. It stores 10kWh of energy, about the daily consumption of the average US household.

And I can see why the 10kWh is sell-out popular.

I live in a neighbourhood full of mature trees and above ground powerlines. This kind of electricity grid is vulnerable. Never mind extreme weather: when we sniffed a storm coming, CelloDad would pre-emptively turns off his computers. It's a crazy way to work. (He's got a backup power box now).

In a major storm, downed trees can cause power outage for days. The obvious solution is to upgrade the grid to the standards of the rest of the developed world. That involves putting the power lines underground: it's safer in many ways, and certainly less ugly. I've been told that kind of infrastructure change costs about $1million per mile, so the reality is that it's not coming to my neighbourhood anytime soon.

This is where that Powerwall comes in real handy. You could get backup power from a diesel generator, but it's noisy, smelly and potentially dangerous if you don't vent it properly. A silent system running on natural gas costs about $10,000 to install properly. A 10kWh Powerwall costs $3,500. It's silent, clean, and can be charged by your rooftop PV. And it looks the epitome of cool.

Why wait?

Oh yeah: that backlog until mid 2016.



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2. The Diesel to Electric Transition
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  1. I'm so excited about this!! We are installing solar panels in our new home and would really like to be off the grid. But it's not practical right now. With this new product, though, I have hope that a great battery (functions well and lasts more than a few years), at a reasonable cost, will be available in the foreseeable future. Yay Tesla!

    1. Your house is going to be quite something!
      Being on the grid, even with rooftop solar on your house, does have its advantages. Backup power is an obvious one. But conversely, at those times that your solar cells make more electricity than you need, you can feed that back in, which helps everybody else who can't have solar on their roof get renewable energy.


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