Tesla’s Powerwall could boost the market for residential battery storage systems

By Arman Kazemi

May 7, 2015

Tesla CEO Elon Musk opened a new chapter in clean energy storage this week with the public launch of a new consumer-focused lithium ion battery: Powerwall.

Speaking in a party-like atmosphere at Hawthrone, California Musk unveiled the battery pack that many observers had been expecting for months.

A descendent of the technology that powers Tesla cars, Powerwall is a 7-inch thick unit designed to fit on the garage wall and power a single family home or multiple residency building.

The battery comes in 7 kWh and 10 kWh units, as well as a larger 100kWh format for businesses and utilities. The battery works with with the local grid, outputting energy during peak periods when rates are highest, and charging when energy use is down and utility rates are cheapest.

The real potential of Tesla’s home battery is unlocked when synched up with a domestic solar panel system, providing an energy generation and storage system that could permanently change the electricity grid. Musk’s ultimate goal is to replace traditional electricity grids powered by fossil fuels with home-based energy systems powered by Tesla’s batteries working in conjunction with “that handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun.”

"We're talking about trying to change the fundamental energy infrastructure of the world," Musk told the launch crowd. "This is actually within the power of humanity to do. It is not impossible."

Delivery of the system will begin in the United States this summer followed by an international roll out next year. The units will cost USD $3,000 for the 7kWh unit and USD $3,500 for the 10kWh version.

In Canada, the units will be distributed by NRStor Inc., according to an article in the Globe and Mail. Local developers are hoping Tesla’s roll out will kick start a nascent market that’s been slower in the uptake of solar energy systems than our neighbour to the south.

Electrovaya Inc., a company based in Mississauga, Ontario that produces a wide range of battery products, embraced the announcement, hoping a focus on the next generation of sleek, practically-designed home batteries will boost its own operations at home and abroad.

Companies like Electrovaya have been waiting for the tipping point when Canadian markets will make a decisive move away from incumbent utilities. And Tesla’s announcement last week may just have been the spark Canadian companies have been waiting for.

“You always need two or three major players to create the market,” Electrovaya’s Gupta told the Financial Post. “And Tesla is terrific at creating the market.”



Photo Credit: General Physics Laboratory