Engineering,  Futurism,  Gadget,  Green Technology

Tesla’s Powerwall and the Future of Energy

Elon Musk Tesla Energy Powerwall Presentation. Photo by General Physics Laboratory (GPL). License: CC BY-ND 2.0.

Tesla Motors, Elon Musk’s luxury electric vehicle company, might be the world’s most prominent producer of fully electric and efficient automobiles. Recently however, Musk has moved the company forward in a new direction by introducing an energy storage system as a part of the new “Tesla Energy” division. This battery unit stores 10 kilowatt hours of power and can supply an average of two kilowatts of power continuously. While this may seem minuscule in the grand scheme of average household use, the potential for future development is great – as are the sales of the product.

The New Face of Energy Efficiency

Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, has been a strong proponent for sustainable energy for many years. Beyond his development of the fully electric and energy efficient Tesla automobile, he has now worked to produce an affordable means for average individuals to go “off the grid” and remove themselves from the high-polluting chain of carbon-based energy resources. Through the implementations of SolarCity, yet another one of his entrepreneurial ventures, homeowners have had access to solar technology which was previously cost prohibitive. This prominent solar panel installation company offers something that many others do not; the ability to benefit from solar energy without the upfront expense.

Bringing Down the Cost, Breaking Free From the Grid

One of the reasons why many homeowners do not utilize solar panels is the cost. Installations and materials can be incredibly expensive. When it comes to financing, some people are discouraged by additional monthly payments or don’t qualify due to bad credit. SolarCity helps by installing a home-based solar array for $0 down, but charges a fee based on energy consumption. This operation is much like that of the local power company, but with a reduced rate of payment each month. While traditional power provider’s electric and gas prices are often highly volatile, leasing options from SolarCity can keep rates locked and predictable. What a person pays for power right now may be the same that he or she pays in five years. Other power companies will often funnel their expenses to customers in order to offset any losses – for example, many organizations increase energy bills to the public in order to pay for upgrades to the facility or any other improvements. After years of surcharges and unreliable service in addition to suspicious fees, many people have built up an antagonistic relationship with their utility company.

Storing Solar Energy for Use

The most important feature of any solar array is its ability to obtain energy from the sun. In prior years, on days when the weather was poor or during the night, these solar systems were little more than weighty gadgetry. They could only collect energy – not store it for later use. The Powerwall shows potential for raising the bar for home use, allowing individuals to hold on to the energy collected by solar technology. As long as continued efforts are put into moving this new innovation forward, it offers the potential to open exciting new avenues in the changing energy utility space.

One of the primary drives of technological innovation is the development of competition. Musk’s Powerwall may provide that competition as manufacturers will need to address storage capacities in order to keep up. Depending on the speed in which the competitors develop their own alternative to the Tesla battery, the price of solar could drop even further.

Potential Powerwall Problems?

One of the primary drawbacks to the Powerwall remains the cost per unit. Although it stores more than three times the electricity than most deep-cell solar batteries currently on the market, it’s also roughly eight times more expensive. Even SolarCity recommends not to use the Powerwall battery for daily use as it’s not cost effective – yet.

In order to get the majority of the world on-board for sustainable energy, the cost of this technology needs to drop further, and the power capabilities improved. But as long as Elon Musk and other eager renewable energy entrepreneurs can continue to develop affordable solutions for energy use, the future of electricity consumption could look much brighter.

Elon Musk Tesla Energy Powerwall presentation photo by General Physics Laboratory (GPL). License: CC BY-ND 2.0.

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Beth Kelly is a guest writer for the technology section of

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