Tesla Motors, makers of some of sleekest electric cars in the world, will announce next week its plans to introduce two new lines of batteries—one for home energy storage (read, great for tying in with a home solar system) and one for utilities. The company could offer the next big challenge for utilities that are already trying to figure out how to operate in a world where consumers don’t need as much of the power as they used to from the electric grid.
Tesla, Elon Musk’s company, made waves last year when it announced plans to build a lithium-ion battery Gigafactory that will produce batteries for all of its cars—and apparently more. The plans haven’t been officially announced yet but this past Tuesday (April 21) Jeffrey Evanson, Tesla’s investor relations head sent an email to investors explaining that the company will introduce the new batteries next week. Bloomberg reported that Evanson wrote: We “will explain the advantages of our solutions and why past battery options were not compelling.”
The email follows a cryptic Tweet from Musk on March 30. “Major new Tesla product line -- not a car -- will be unveiled at our Hawthorne Design Studio on Thurs 8pm, April 30”. This follows his remarks in a Feb. 2015 earnings call when he stated: “We’re going to unveil the Tesla home battery, the consumer battery that will be for use in and people’s houses or businesses, fairly soon.” He added: “We have the design done and it should start going into production probably about six months or so. We probably got a date to have sort of product unveiling, it’s probably in the next month or two. It’s really great. I’m really excited about it.”
The home-scale battery is expected to be based on Tesla’s car battery pack. Details about the utility or commercial-scale battery are less clear.
The energy storage options, which more companies are starting to offer—like SunPower and NRG, for instance—are another challenge to the traditional utility model since it can help consumers reduce their use of the energy grid, while still being connected to it. When coupled with a solar array they can actually sell excess electricity produced back to the utility. However, there are benefits to the utility, too.
Solar panels on homes and energy storage can ease the use peaker plants, which produce energy at higher costs, than utilities’ base-load electric generators. They can also help consumers reduce time of use charges wherein a utility charges more for electricity during certain hours of the day when demand is high.
Either way, the pending announcement from Musk is likely to set Twitter abuzz and, when brought to the market, will give home and business owners more opportunities to better control their electric usage and costs.Tweet