Tesla’s Battery Backup Technology Could Make Renewable Energy More Cost-Effective

A large-scale system, based on the batteries that power Tesla’s vehicles, provides power to Australians when consumption spikes.

By Jill Ament & Alexandra HartJanuary 2, 2018 7:15 am| ,

New technology from Tesla could make widespread power outages a thing of the past. The company best known for its electric vehicles recently rolled out a backup power system in Australia – and in the face of several outages, it’s exceeding expectations.

The Tesla system is essentially a battery, a much larger version of the batteries used in its electric cars. When the system detects a power outage, it provides a backup power, in some cases, within a fraction of a second.

Brian Fung, a tech reporter for the Washington Post, says Australia – where it’s summer right now – is experiencing spikes in power demand, much as Texas power systems do when many air conditioners tax the electrical system.

Fung says California and Puerto Rico have explored battery backup technology, too. Batteries step in when natural gas plants and other facilities can’t accommodate demand spikes.

The Tesla system also provides the ability to store energy, something that’s a problem for solar and wind-based systems.

“One of the biggest problem for renewables in general is what do you do when the sun’s not shining or the wind’s not blowing,” Fung says. “And energy storage technology like this battery, a lot of experts say, could be the bridge that allows renewable energies to become more cost-effective relative to other alternatives like oil and gas.” This, in turn, should bring down the cost of renewable energy, relative to fossil fuels.

The current Tesla battery system can only charge 30,000 homes for a limited period of time, Fung says.

“I think that as this technology improves, the amount of time these batteries can run for will probably increase, but for the foreseeable future, I think we’ll still need to supplement these batteries with more traditional power sources, and that’s going to be the big hurdle moving forward,” Fung says.

 

Written by Shelly Brisbin.