Last month, Tesla’s chief technology officer JB Straubel told engineering students at the University of Nevada that the Tesla Gigafactory was designed from the very beginning to be both a Net Zero building, and to have zero carbon emissions. That’s an extraordinary statement for a building that will reportedly be one of the largest man made structures on Earth when it’s finally completed!
As impressive as that statement is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to people who have followed Tesla’s progress over the years. Especially Tesla has been telling us as much in an artist’s rendering of the Gigafactory that has been online for months– it’s just that nobody really paid much attention to the words before. At least, not until Straubel emphasized what they mean
“You know, from the get-go, from the first concept of this factory, we wanted to make it a net-zero facility,” Straubel said. “So…the most visible thing we are doing is covering the entire site with solar power. The whole roof of the Gigafactory was designed from the beginning with solar in mind.’
We kept all of the mechanical equipment off the roof. We didn’t put extra…penetrations through the roof that we didn’t need to and it’s a very, very clean surface that we can completely cover in solar. But that’s not enough solar, though. So we have also gone to the surrounding hillsides that we can’t use for other functions and we’re adding solar to those.” Keep in mind that “net zero” does not mean the building will not be connected to the grid. It means the building will put back into the grid as much electricity as it takes out.
Straubel also focused on the other major news about the Gigafactory. It was designed from the beginning to be a zero emissions factory. That means Tesla decided early on not to bring natural gas on site. “The other interesting thing is we wanted to manage the emissions from the Gigafactory. Solar power can do some of that, but we took kind of a radical move in the beginning and said we are not going to burn any fossil fuels in the factory. You know, zero emissions.”
“We are going to build a zero-emissions factory — just like the car. So, instead of kind of fighting this battle in hindsight, we just said we are not even going to have a natural gas pipeline coming to the factory, so we didn’t even build it. And it kind of forced the issue. When you don’t have natural gas, you know, none of the engineers can say, ‘Oh, but it will be more efficient, let me use just a little bit.’ Sorry, we don’t even have it.”
Straubel and Tesla are clearly enjoying the challenge of building a huge new factory that is net zero and has zero emissions. “So it’s kind of been a fun activity and just, a lot of challenges that come up. But in every single step of the process, we have been able to reinvent and come up with solutions,” he said. “There’s a heat pump technology that actually ends up way more efficient than just burning natural gas for steam. And then, we have a facility that has basically no emissions. The only emissions are related to the vehicles that might go there that aren’t electric or things like that. But we’ll try to attack that one piece at a time.” We can be pretty sure Musk and company will soon find a way to limit or eliminate the number of fossil fuel burning cars and trucks that come to the site every day.
Source | Images: Tesla, via Cleantechnica.