Bridging the everyday gaps of solar energy?
With the ice melting, energy prices rising and less healthy air to breath the world is looking for new ways to feed our never ending hunger for energy: renewable energy.
In the United States 39%(1) of the energy comes from coal plants. These coal plants produce huge amounts of energy and transfer the generated energy via the grid to households and other industries. The same principle holds for some renewable energy sources. For example windmill parks work via the same principle, energy gets generated in a big windmill park at sea and all the energy goes one way to the places where it is used.
However, what we currently see is that the generation of renewable energy is getting closer and closer to the actual user and therefore often also on a smaller scale. On one hand Solar can be generated in farms such as the Topaz Solar Farm located in California, which is currently one of the biggest in the world. On the other hand more and more individual households are putting solar panels on their roof to provide themselves with energy.
Since energy production is starting to get decentralized there is need for a smart grid. With the private production of energy through solar panels one can imagine that during the day a peak amount of energy is produced and transferred to the grid whereas at night when energy consumption is relatively high and local production is low the demand for energy is extra high. This increases the strain on the traditional grid and therefore measurements need to be taken, for the consumer to avoid peak prices and for distribution network operators to avoid increasing maintenance costs.
Enter Tesla, at the end of April 2015 the company released the so called Power wall which is basically a battery pack for your house. The Power wall comes in 7Kwh and 10Kwh, to give you an idea: a fridge uses about 1.6Kwh per day and laptop 0.05kwh per hour (2). An industrial version called the Power Pack is also available, this will allow factories and even small villages to store energy . One could say that the Power wall will solve or at least help solving the problem of the overused grid by saving extra energy for later use at the source where it has been generated.
So will this actually transform the way we consume energy or is it just a silicon valley dream? The Power wall comes at a price of 3500 $ for the 10Kwh version. This excludes installation costs and of course the cost of solar panels. Forbes calculated that you will pay around 15cts per kwh (3) when you use the Power Wall solution whereas the U.S. Energy information administration (4) gives an average price for most regions way below that price. For example in West South Central which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas you pay 11.19 per Kwh.
So the technology might give some future perspective on how to solve our energy problem but at this point it is still debatable whether or not these power packs will have a big influence on your electricity bill.