South African-born technology entrepreneur Elon Musk announced on Thursday night the development of a new battery system, the Tesla Powerwall, to store solar energy for later use, addressing a key obstacle to wider use of renewable energy sources.
“The obvious problem with solar power is that the sun does not shine at night,” he said at a presentation at the Los Angeles-area design studio of his electric car company, Tesla Motors.
That means energy grids using solar power still need backup sources of electricity, in the US often generated by power plants burning coal or natural gas.
The batteries to be produced by the new company, Tesla Energy, are “the missing piece” to wider reliance on solar power, he said, storing energy generated when the sun shines for use when it doesn’t.
Tesla Energy will produce batteries for residential use, and scalable battery systems with capacity up to 1GWh that “can power a small city” like Boulder, Colorado, he said.
The Tesla Power Wall, stackable batteries for residential use, each with a capacity of 10kWh, will sell for US$3 500 each and begin shipping in three to four months, he said.
In 2012, the average US household used about 11 380kWh of electricity per year. German households averaged 3 413kWh per year.
In a 2013 report, the US department of energy said storage “can ‘smooth’ the delivery of power generated from wind and solar technologies, in effect, increasing the value of renewable power”.
Electricity storage is “the thing that’s needed to have a proper transition to a sustainable energy world”, Musk said.
Musk runs the US’s second-largest manufacturer of solar cells, Solar City, as well as the electric car pioneer Tesla Motors and space transport producer SpaceX. — DPA/News24