3p Weekend: 7 Things You Need to Know About Tesla’s New Home Battery

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
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When Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this month that the automaker would soon release a product sans wheels, the Internet went into a flurry of speculation. Some headlines predicted that Tesla’s new battery would “eliminate electricity bills,” while others took it a step further saying it would “change the world.”

But now, after the big unveiling late last night, the time for speculation is over. Quell your curiosity, and spend 10 minutes learning everything you need to know about Tesla’s new battery.

1. It helps homeowners save energy, even before they go renewable

Tesla’s new home battery is surely a boon for homeowners with rooftop solar panels: Since we tend to use more energy in the morning and evening when sunlight is not plentiful, excess solar energy is often sold to the power company and purchased back in the evening, Tesla pointed out. “This mismatch adds demand on power plants and increases carbon emissions,” the company said.

Tesla’s new battery, Powerwall, fills in the gap — allowing homeowners to store solar energy onsite, ensuring that they have access to their own energy day and night. But it’s not just homeowners with rooftop solar who stand to benefit: The Powerwall can also store utility-supplied energy when rates are low and save it for use during peak hours, reducing demand on utilities during peak times and cutting down dramatically on monthly bills. The battery also helps homeowners fortify their homes against power outages — and frees them from dirty diesel backup generators — by providing a backup electricity supply.

2. It’s (somewhat) reasonably priced

Before the big unveiling last night, rumor had it that Tesla’s Powerwall batteries would be leased, not owned. But it turns out the batteries can be purchased outright for a (somewhat) wallet-friendly cost. The 10 kilowatt-hour Powerwall model, optimized for backup applications, is available for $3,500, excluding the cost of an inverter and professional installation. (Tesla is working with another Elon Musk venture, SolarCity, to install the systems and plans to announce other installation partners in the near future.) The 7 kWh model, optimized for daily-use applications in tandem with solar energy, goes for $3,000.

During the announcement, Musk said that leasing the battery would also be an option, and that the price-point was “without any incentives” from local, state or federal governments, reports Ars Technica.

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3. Its modular design stores even more power

Unlike most home storage batteries on the market today, which tend to be bulky and difficult to install, the Powerwall offers a sleek and functional design befitting the Tesla brand. “Based on the powertrain architecture and components of Tesla electric vehicles,” the Powerwall may even inspire folks to start using the words “sexy” and “energy storage” in the same sentence.

Homes with greater energy needs can install multiple batteries together to go completely off-grid or keep the lights on for weeks in the event of prolonged power outages in rural areas.

4. Businesses are already using it

Thanks to modular design, businesses looking to lower bills, reduce power-outage risks or employ onsite renewable energy can install a bevy of Powerwall batteries to meet their needs. “Business Storage anticipates and discharges stored power during a facility’s times of highest usage, reducing the demand charge component of the energy energy bills,” Tesla said in a statement.

In fact, a handful of businesses are already using the Powerwall — and Tesla’s new arm, Tesla Energy — to increase renewable energy usage and cut costs:

Amazon: Amazon Web Services has a long-term commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage for its global infrastructure footprint. And it seems the company has been working with Tesla on the sly to achieve its goal: “We’ve been working closely with Tesla for the past year to drive innovative applications of high-capacity battery technology in data center applications with the ultimate goal of reducing the technical barriers limiting widespread adoption of renewables in the grid,” said James Hamilton, a ‘distinguished engineer’ at Amazon Web Services. “We’re excited to roll out a 4.8 megawatt hour pilot of Tesla’s energy storage batteries in our U.S. West (Northern California) Region. This complements our strategy to use renewable energy to power our global infrastructure.”

Target: “As part of Target’s support to our communities, we’re excited to partner with Tesla on a pilot test at select Target stores to incorporate Tesla Energy Storage as part of our energy strategy,” said David Hughes, senior group manager of energy management at Target.

Jackson Family Wines: In tandem with onsite renewable energy, Jackson Family Wines will use Powerwall technology to “mitigate energy use around four areas that account for the most consumption in our winemaking process: refrigeration/cooling, lighting, compressed air and process water treatment.”

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For utility scale systems, 100 kilowatt-hour battery blocks are grouped to scale from 500kWh to more than 10 megawatt-hours.

5. It’s for utilities, too

Musk hinted that the company’s new battery may one day be used for utility grids, but it seems we’re already there. For utility scale systems, 100 kilowatt-hour battery blocks are grouped to scale from 500kWh to more than 10 megawatt-hours, Tesla said. The system supports applications like “peak shaving, load shifting and demand response for commercial customers while offering, renewable firming and a variety of grid services at utility scales, the company said.

Lest you assume this is still just speculation, four utilities are already partnering with Tesla to employ the new technology:

Southern California Edison: Southern California Edison (SCE) has developed the nation’s largest battery storage system and has contracts in place for an additional 264 megawatts of storage, including projects using Tesla batteries. SCE is working with Tesla on three demand-response demonstration projects to “test communication capabilities” and “explore rebates to customers who allow SCE to manage their battery charging” — with the ultimate goal of increasing renewable energy use while ensuring continued grid reliability.

SoCore Energy, a subsidiary of SCE’s parent company, is working with a client to design and install Tesla batteries at two of its retail properties in Southern California. The sites will feature Tesla battery units that will be charged with electricity from the grid during non-peak hours at night.

AES: As a launch partner, AES says it will employe Tesla’s battery technology across its distributed energy platforms. The batteries will complement the AES Advancion digital control system, regarded as best-in-class for energy management.

Advanced Microgrid Solutions: Advanced Microgrid Solutions has high praise for the new technology: “Tesla’s bold approach to advancing battery technology will change the way we build our cities forever,” said Susan Kennedy, the company’s co-founder and CEO.

OnCor: Oncor also seems pretty stoked to start using Tesla batteries: “Tesla has long demonstrated its ability to be a technology leader, which is why Oncor has looked to Tesla for grid-scale storage. Oncor looks forward to working with Tesla to make sure the electric grid meets all customers’ future needs,” the company said in a statement.

6. It may just change the world after all

Seeming to double-down on media speculation, at the unveiling on Thursday evening, Elon Musk said the move could help change the “entire energy infrastructure of the world.” Considering all the battery has to offer, it just might. Not only does the Powerwall offer grid-independence for homeowners with renewable energy systems, but it could also be used to provide consistent renewable energy in off-grid locations in the developing world.

The fact that a utility-grade option was released right out of the gate also bodes well for the battery’s promise to revolutionize the energy sector. Since solar and wind power are variable by nature, reliable and efficient energy storage has long been considered the key to widespread renewable energy adoption. With utilities already working with Tesla to deploy its new batteries, could this be the turning point?

7. All the details

For those into specs, here’s all the raw information you crave:

  • Technology: Wall mounted, rechargeable lithium ion battery with liquid thermal control.
  • Models and pricing: 10 kilowatt-hours, $3,500 (for backup applications); 7 kWh, $3,000 (for daily cycle applications)
  • Warranty: Ten-year warranty with an optional 10-year extension.
  • Efficiency: 92 percent round-trip DC efficiency
  • Power: 2.0 kilowatt continuous, 3.3 kW peak
  • Voltage: 350 to 450 volts
  • Current: 5 amp nominal, 8.5 amp peak output
  • Compatibility: Single-phase and three-phase utility grid compatible.
  • Operating Temperature: -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 110 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Enclosure: Rated for indoor and outdoor installation.
  • Installation: Requires installation by a trained electrician. AC-DC inverter not included.
  • Weight: 220 pounds
  • Dimensions: 52.1″ x 33.9″ x 7.1″
  • Certifications: UL listed

So, will Tesla’s new battery be as revolutionary as execs and pundits claim? Only time will tell, but we’ll have our eyes on the story as it develops.

Image credits: Tesla Energy

Mary Mazzoni

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is the senior editor of TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist with a passion for storytelling and sustainability. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Earth911, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and the Daily Meal.

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian with an interest in climate resilience, clean tech and social justice. You can contact her at mary@triplepundit.com.