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Will Batteries Revolutionize Our Energy Grid?

05/19/15

batteries

Battery technology has already made our lives more portable and convenient. From the disposable alkalines you used to use to power your Walkman to the modern rechargeable batteries in your cell phone and laptop, they allow us to take our work, entertainment and communication systems on the go. But batteries might have an even grander destiny: they could revolutionize the way we generate and use energy all throughout the home. Read on for a glimpse into our battery-powered future.

From Electric Cars to Your Living Room

Leading the charge into the brave new world of batteries is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors. Musk recently launched Tesla Energy, a suite of batteries designed to facilitate flexibility for consumers and ultimately pave the way to an energy grid that doesn't rely on fossil fuels.

"Our goal," Musk said at a press conference, "is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy."

Tesla used its expertise in designing batteries for electric cars to make batteries bigger and more powerful. The company’s new lithium-ion batteries are optimized to enable “homes, business, and utilities to store sustainable and renewable energy to manage power demand, provide backup power and increase grid resilience,” the company promises.

Energy at Any Time of Day

Because Tesla’s new battery technology allows residential and business users to store electricity until it’s needed, it creates the opportunity to purchase electricity during off-peak time, easing the stress on our electrical grid. It also helps users get more out of sustainable but intermittent fuel sources like wind and solar.

If the technology catches on, consumers can take better advantage of utility time-of-day pricing. Some utilities in North America sell electricity at cheaper rates during nights and weekends, when there is less demand. A homeowner could therefore charge a battery at night and use it during the day, which saves money for them and reduces the generation cost for the utility company by smoothing out the demand.

Furthermore, as solar and wind technologies become cheaper and more viable, the ability to store their output means that they can further cut into the market share of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, reducing human impact on climate change.

Keep the Lights On and the TV Running

Another advantage of the enhanced storage potential is that homeowners will still have power in the event of a blackout or other disruption to the power grid. And people who want to go off the grid entirely with solar energy can do it without worrying about running out of power during the night.

The batteries are expensive, starting at $3,000 for residential models. If the program takes off, the price should fall and ever-better technologies will be developed to improve storage, capacity, transmission and other specifications.

For now, the Tesla batteries look like a useful, if expensive, addition to the energy-conscious homeowner's arsenal. If prices do continue to fall, however, the batteries could transform into something truly revolutionary.



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