Elon Musk has been working hard to drive widespread adoption of solar power through Tesla Motors and SolarCity. With growing car sales at Tesla and an increasing number of homeowners taking advantage of no-money-down solar leases from SolarCity, things look rosy for the future of solar tech. Now that Tesla has released the Powerwall home battery, the energy market could see serious disruption--to the benefit of ordinary individuals and the environment.
1. Powerwall will take homes and businesses off the grid
A traditional drawback of solar energy is that it isn’t available around the clock, since it can only be generated during daylight hours and depends upon favorable weather conditions. The Powerwall battery changes that by enabling energy to be stored up when the sun is shining brightly and then consumed later, even when solar panels aren’t operating. This means users won’t need to rely on old-school electricity suppliers since they’ll be able to tap into their stored solar energy at any time.
2. Traditional utility companies will have to change their ways
Some utility firms, eying the growing market share of solar power, are trying to fight back. A few companies have begun charging customers a fee if they have solar equipment installed at their properties. Hitherto, these homeowners have had little choice but to cough up the dough because they needed to rely on the energy company even if they used solar panels. The Powerwall (and similar storage batteries) may make going off the grid completely a realistic option for some homeowners that have sufficient solar capacity, so these suppliers will have to come up with more innovative and fair ways of making money.
3. Solar energy could be cheaper and more accessible than expected
The Powerwall currently comes in two models that cost $3,000 and $3,500. These price points, about the same as that of a decade-old used car, could be out of range of many buyers. However, Tesla’s planned Gigafactory intends to produce more lithium-ion battery units in 2020 than were produced in the entire world in 2013. Economies of scale will almost certainly drive the per-unit price down significantly.
4. Transition from niche technology to mass market
The combination of solar leases, the declining costs of solar tech and the time-shifting capabilities of the Powerwall could take solar power to a whole new level of mainstream adoption. With recent developments, we could see a swath of individuals and businesses jumping on board this form of renewable energy. Solar electrical generation seems to be advancing exponentially, and at the current pace of adoption, we’re just six doublings away from using solar for all humanity’s energy demands.
5. Fossil fuels could be a thing of the past
According to Arch Coal and Ohio Gas, every megawatt that’s produced with solar represents the replacement of a megawatt produced through burning polluting coal and oil. Which means as solar usage grows, unclean forms of energy production will eventually fall by the wayside. Just as burning wood in the industrial world has become an outmoded, inefficient form of generating power, so too may coal and oil see their heyday relegated to the pages of history books.
6. Tesla could change international energy markets
Although much of the focus on the Powerwall centers on its impact in the United States and other developed economies, the true benefits of the battery could come in less advanced countries. China and India, with more than two billion people combined, have already made significant commitments to solar energy generation. If the Powerwall is eventually available in these and other growing nations, it could enhance the efficiency of renewable power-generation facilities that are only now coming online.
The Powerwall battery represents a major improvement in solar technology. Now that solar power can be economically stored and used later on, one of its largest drawbacks has been mitigated. As production ramps up and costs drop, we could see solar becoming the leading form of energy generation over the coming decades with concomitant positive consequences for the natural environment.
About the author:
Maria Ramos is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.