Solar and wind have risen to become the stars of the renewable energy industry, yet there is one word that puts a damper on their progress: intermittency. In Mexico, renewable energy companies are grumbling that certain incentives like green wheeling, capacity recognition, and energy banks have been stripped away; now all hopes are being poured into the elusive clean energy certificates. The disappearance of energy banks spell out an intent from authorities to put forth energy storage as a vital piece of the puzzle. Electricity storage is the missing link to finally wean off of fossil fuels and companies are scrambling around to improve the technology. We turn our sights to the global markets to see the rising trends that will one day reach Mexican shores.
In light of this, it comes as no surprise that excitement has swelled in the industry with Tesla’s announcement of the sleek new Powerwall for domestic use. This is a wall-mounted energy storage unit that can hold 10Kwh of electric energy, all for the tidy sum of US$3,500. It is also complemented with a commercial system called Powerpack that offers 100kWh storage. According to the Deutsche Bank, this translated into an electricity price of around US$500 per kWh, less than half of current costs. Tesla founder Elon Musk sums up the purpose of this innovation: “We are talking about trying to change the fundamental energy infrastructure of the world.”
This statement sparks a barrage of unanswered questions. For instance, can Powerwall truly transform energy infrastructure, especially at a domestic level? Musk’s energy revolution carries a hefty price tag of US$3,500, so can people afford it? Is this a viable investment at the moment? The battery requires a switch to be installed in a home’s fuse box to impede power feeding into the grid during a blackout, which can cause imbalances in the grid. This demands experienced electricians to rewire the house and the costs do not stop there since the price excludes inverters and installation. The inconspicuous add-ons make it too high for a realistic investment, so early customers will be those that want the latest bit of technology and are not too concerned about actual costs.
Yet, when we look at the bigger picture, we see that Powerwall is a definite improvement, since battery prices have steadily dropped and Tesla is certainly heralding an energy storage revolution. It is a good development to have distributed energy storage as it will contribute to the growth of small scale renewables. Tesla is taking the first step, yet for mortals like you and me, we will certainly make the switch when our wallets are not decimated by the technology.