Tesla Energy: How One Company Can Destroy the Power Grid (and why you will be okay without it)
Written By: Christine Dantz
Elon Musk's, Tesla Energy, is capitalizing on energy companies' reluctance to enter the twenty-first century and accept they can't continue to ignore solar energy and remain in business. On April 28, 2015, the electric vehicle pioneer announced the much-anticipated launch of a home-based battery.
The wall-mounted batteries for homes and small businesses coupled with the ongoing fight between power companies and their consumers who want cleaner, cheaper, and safer energy has the power to destroy the country's current power grid and put the power in the hands of the people.
The Tesla Powerwall-Empower Americans to Cut the Power Cord
In 1882, when electricity first spread across America's vast landscape, the technology required power lines to connect the dots and complete the circuit. Solar power and lithium-ion batteries now eliminate the need to stay connected.
The Powerwall is stackable, so homes that start with the basic 10 kWh for $3,500 will have enough energy to power basics during an electrical outage (refrigerator, charge electronics, coffee maker, etc.) and upgrade at a later point to add more power. They can either reduce the amount of power they have to purchase from their utility company or upgrade completely off the grid.
Tesla Energy's website lists the average energy use per hour or use in these common household items:
Flat Screen TV, 0.1 kWh per hour
Lights Per Room, 0.1 kwh per hour
Laptop, 0.05 kWh per hour
Refrigerator, 4.8 kWh per day
Clothes Washer, 2.3 kWh per use
Clothes Dryer, 3.3 kWh per use
Size is important in America's expanding population, which is why the 220-pound wall unit is only 7.1 inches deep and Musk didn't forget about style; the Powerwall is available in pre-order in black, grey, purple, and red.
Tesla will begin shipping a limited number of systems domestically by this summer, with production expected to increase after the Nevada facility opens next year.
Force the Hands of Change
The government shouldn't be forced to get involved. However, in Hawaii and in many other states across the country, energy companies have forced the hands of those in charge due to angry constituents who've tried other approaches.
Until this April, the Hawaiian Electric Company prevented thousands of its customers from connecting solar systems in their homes, some for close to two years. Mr. Akamine, a manager at a cable company in Hawaii, has been waiting for 18 months. Akamine's monthly electric bill is $600 to $700 a month. The reason provided by the utility provider? Their older infrastructures can't handle the pressure.
Frustrated homeowners turned to the Hawaii State Utilities Commission, which gave the electric provider two choices: explain why they can't upgrade their systems to safeguard the grid and meet the growing demand for solar energy, as the commissioned report show's is reasonable, or fast track the pending applications.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, there are about 600,000 solar systems installed in the U.S. and they estimate that will grow to 3.3 million by 2020.
It's not as if energy companies haven't had time to prepare. The writing on the wall is now a neon flashing sign, and by failing to listen, they only have themselves to blame.
Utility Companies: It Doesn't have to be the End
Wait. As great as cutting this huge cord is and how empowering it can be for Americans, there are a few negative aspects of the vision. Millions of people with individual power supplies, with various skill sets, and no regulation, is a recipe for disaster.
If more energy companies get on board, they can still make a profit, help the people, and move to clean energy by managing the power that their customers zap from their rooftop and other solar installations.
They can follow the lead of Oncor's location in Lancaster, Texas, where the large utility company has installed a 1.25-megawatt system designed to be a backup power facility that will switch automatically during power outages. This brings the country closer to micro power grids that are safer, easier to manage, as well as repair, and are more efficient—all while still costing less.
When you think about the power grid, consider a Christmas light's dilemma that's pained many, "One light goes out, they all go out!"
From engineers and scientists, to top computer experts, all express concern over the vulnerability of America's electrical grid and the havoc hackers could wreak if they gained access to the system.
Affordable Clean Energy isn't a Myth
Blackouts are one of the driving forces behind the popularity of solar power, which researchers expect to explode by 2018 into a $1 billion a year industry. The crowning achievement for the industry is the grand opening of Tesla's $5 billion 'gigafactory' in 2016. Tesla estimates that the world's largest lithium-ion battery plant in Nevada will reduce the cost of batteries by over 30 percent.
It's time electric companies stop playing Chicken Little and yelling, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling." Instead, they need to step up and meet the demand while they are still in the game.