Last Thursday, Elon Musk presented the heavily-anticipated Powerwall – Tesla’s scalable battery which Musk believes could revolutionize the way we consume, produce and store energy. The largest barriers today for solar and wind power are the well-known villains: sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, nor does the wind blow whenever we would like it to. For years, scientists and engineers are searching furiously for a solution to store renewable energy to match electricity production from renewable sources with electricity demand at every given moment. Batteries, hydrogen storage, compressed air storage… many scenarios are being investigated at the moment and no-one found a decent cost-effective solution, yet. And then came Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and other ambitious companies. No surprise his keynote last Thursday has been followed with enormous interest.
The Powerwall is a lithium-ion battery starting from 7kWh at 3000$, but is infinitely scalable which means it both targets families and companies. Musk believes Powerwall makes it possible to go off-grid, which means families or companies become fully self-sufficient via a combination of renewable energy generation and storage with one or more Powerwall devices. But what is the real innovation behind the Powerwall? That’s a bit unclear up till now. Besides the fact the battery is cheap thanks to the Gigafactory that will build them, it is still good’ol lithium-ion technology. And going off-grid is easier said than done. Keeping a local grid at the right frequency (50Hz in Europe, 60Hz in US) is not easy. It is vital though for correct operation of computers, domestic electronics as well as industrial machines. For now, it seems people are willing to give it a try: 5 days after Musk’s keynote he announced they reached a total of 38 000 pre-orders.