1 May 2015

Elon Musk’s energy revolution – a new home battery

The chief executive of electric car maker Tesla launches a networked battery harnessing solar power, which he thinks could herald the end of the conventional power-sharing grid.

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has unveiled “another nail in the coffin of conventional utilities”, in the form of a home battery that can store solar power for use in the evenings.

The chief executive of electric car maker Tesla revealed the “Powerwall” wall-mounted lithium ion rechargeable storage units, based on the company’s car batteries, at an event in California.

Our goal here is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy Elon Musk

“Our goal here is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy,” Mr Musk said, as he launched the batteries that are only slightly little bigger than a conventional boiler.

The batteries are expected to cost from $3,000-$3,500 US (or £2,000-£2,300), with shipping in the US due to start in the summer.

The battery is being marketed as a way to use solar power when energy prices are low, for powering the home in the evening and also protecting against power cuts.

The new battery “offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup”, according to Tesla.

Other companies are trying to get into the energy storage system business, including the UK’s Ecotricity, which is launching a pilot later this year in 100 homes for its “black box” energy storage system.

And UK-based Moixa Technology has received funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change for its home-based battery units.

New networks

But some business analysts say the Tesla battery could be too expensive for most consumers, echoing concerns about the price of its cars.

The expected price of Powerwall could discourage widespread adoption, especially for a product that may only have limited use.

This could affect plans to link up widespread home batteries in networks that could reduce global reliance on fossil fuels.

Such networks could also provide a useful back-up to power utilities ate times of peak demand.