The Tesla Powerwall: Can You Unplug From the REAL Grid?

When most people talk about going off the grid, it’s more about living without cable TV, or lessening their dependence on the connected life we lead in these times.  For obvious reasons (fresh food, happy wife, heat, cool air, cold beer) these people don’t even think about completely unplugging from their electric power provider.  Even home solar fanatics see the upside to staying connected–if not to simply sell power back to the local monopoly.

Then Elon Musk came around last week with his new Powerwall.  For $3k you can buy a rechargable 7 kWh battery for use around the home.  For $3,500 you can make that a 10 kWh battery.

For those of you who may not be aware this level of home storage and rechargeability can’t be accomplished by the thing you bought at Home Depot to refresh the batteries in your remote control.

Here’s a link to a very cool .xls from the US Energy Administration that details monthly kWh usage by state and region.  Where I live, 10 kWh would power my home for a half a day.  Which might seem trivial.  But it might not be if a summer or winter storm cuts my power off.  If I had a Powerwall today, I could count on a half-day of electricity while everyone else around me is figuring out where they’re going to store their perishables.  Or stay warm.

If I had a solar array on my roof, I can now offload power onto a Powerall–and still have enough to sell back to the local monopoly.

What got my mind on this topic was a post by Simple Investment Ideas at the Seeking Alpha website.

Most energy analysts have assumed the solar plus storage model as a faraway threat for the utilities, which was an assumption predicated on the belief that cost-effective battery technology is nowhere near mature. With Tesla’s new Powerwall product, these assumptions have been shattered. While the Powerwall is still not cost-effective enough to cause mass defection from the grid, it highlights the huge and attainable potential of energy storage technology.


If $3500 gets me 10 kWh now, what will it get me after Tesla’s Gigafactory is producing batteries at full capacity?

Keep in mind the facility is scheduled to open in 2017.  Battery prices are already sinking like a stone, while the amount of storage rises like a lost helium balloon.  The Gigafactory is going commoditize the cost of power storage, perhaps changing the way we look at buying power.

The other point he makes is also very salient.  As the technology develops, home solar will be the industry most benefited by the Powerwall and similar technology.  The Powerwall means we can begin logical conversation about unplugging from the REAL grid.  It’s a function of the efficiency of the solar collector, battery capacity and daily usage. Before the Powerwall, there was no high quality, mass produced and affordable battery in that equation.

Here’s another thought. Say I have a pretty snazzy solar collector.  What if I could finance a battery big enough to store two weeks worth of kWh, and use the proceeds from selling that stored power back to pay back the loan?  I’m ahead in two ways.  I’m more immune to the effects of nature–both Mother and human.  I also own a little revenue generator as well.

This topic is a real conversation starter.  Not just among geeks, but among people who hate to pay electric bills.  Simple Investment Ideas–clearly not his or her real name–makes some other very good points about the growing amount of cheap power storage.  Short version: the future will be very hard on the local energy monopolies.

I encourage you to read the post.



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Sebastian James

Accept no substitutes

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