The Powerwall is all over the news, as the first units are already being fitted on to the homes of the lucky Australians. The responses have been incredible, with everyone agreeing that besides all its brilliant specs, it is also a “thing of beauty”. That statement was made by the absolute first Powerwall owner in Australia.
The country was selected as a priority market place due to its incredibly high number of home owners with solar panels. But while the hype over there is getting bigger by the minute, it is quite important to note what could now be expected to happen to the energy market in Australia. It is definitely going to change, as specialists point out, but how exactly?
A bit of a recap of what the Powerwall actually is and what it can do.
So, it is a home energy storage unit, which is essentially a 7 kWh lithium ion battery. Its prime purpose is to store excess power generated from renewables (mainly solar) and keep it until the reserves are needed. For optimal usage of Powerwall, the owners should charge it and discharge it every day. The efficiency is 92%, so its working capacity is 6.4 kWh.
If you already have solar panels, instead of selling excess electricity to the grid, you can opt for storing it at home using such storage unit. There are also some solar panel providers, like Natural Solar, who have stated that their panels are only compatible with the Powerwall.
Last but not least, this is for those who do not have solar panels, Powerwall can be purchased as a whole pack- solar panels, energy storage unit and an inverter. To make the whole thing worth while, your array must be at least 4kWh, so that the energy it generates can power your home, and charge your battery.
Now, in most cases, one Powerwall unit will not be sufficient to power a regular household without a bit of help from the grid. If going off grid is your aim, then you will have to invest in at least two Powerwall units.
So, what does this mean for the grid? Let’s focus on Australia since this is where Powerwall is right now?
Various consumer reports on the continent state that Australians are highly concerned with the price they pay for electricity. What is more, about two thirds of the population is certain that they want to generate their own electricity, and be completely independent from the national grid.
It is not a secret that the price of both solar panels and battery systems is dropping as more and more companies are trying to get onto this market. Of course, this results in a much higher demand, and much higher number of buyers. Some expect that by 2020, the demand for panels and batteries will increase ten fold.
Of course this sounds great, but actually, the whole population would benefit much more from solar panel owners, who sell their excess power, instead of storing it at home. This essentially prevents the so called ‘death spiral’ from happening, where very few consumers rely on the grid, and have to pay for the whole of it. Those consumers, unfortunately, are the ones, who are the poorest and cannot afford panels, and batteries.
Difficult choices. I guess everyone has to consider what is best for them first. But will the grid be the main competition for home energy storage units, offering super good deals for home-made electricity? Or will it ever get to a point when the wealthy are happily doing their own thing, while the poor are forced to have no electricity, because the grid is gone, or too expensive?
Image (c) SolarCity