Tesla may be ready to unveil a home battery energy storage system soon. During a conference call with investors earlier this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk let it slip that the design of the battery is complete and production could begin in about 6 months. “The long-term demand for stationary energy storage is extraordinary,” added JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, during that call. “We’ve done a huge amount of effort there and have talked to major utilities and energy service companies.”
Home energy storage is potentially a huge market. As battery technology gets driven forward by the search for the perfect electric car battery, prices are dropping and performance is increasing. Nissan touts its LEAF as being a good backup power source for homes. The battery in the Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle can reportedly be removed from the car and brought inside to power a typical home for up to a week.
Volkswagen is conducting an experiment in Hamburg, Germany. It will donate 100 batteries from its eGolf cars to create a battery storage facility for the local utility company. A battery that is no longer serviceable for automotive use still retains 70% of its energy storage capacity. The VW plan will allow the electric company to store excess power during off peak times and draw on that stored energy during periods of peak demand. That allows the utility to generate electricity more efficiently, saving everyone money.
In a conference call last year, Musk made reference to his plans for home power storage. “We are trying to figure out what would be a cool stationary (battery) pack,” Musk said. “Some will be like the Model S pack: something flat, 5 inches off the wall, wall-mounted, with a beautiful cover, an integrated bi-directional inverter, and plug and play.”
Having a battery in the basement would be a huge benefit to people with solar panels installed on their residence. Now, instead of having to rely on the grid when the sun goes down, those panels could store electricity for use after dark or on cloudy days. If enough residences and business made and stored their own power, that would have a seismic impact on how electricity is generated and distributed everywhere around the world.
It’s entirely possible that the benefits to society would far surpass the utility of a a seven passenger electric car that can bolt to 60 mph in the blink of an eye. Hello, Elon? Where do I sign up?