Tesla, the electric car innovator, has launched a home battery system that could very well usher in the next generation of off-grid and electrical backup supply for solar energy. Lead-acid batteries, the current standard for off-grid or backup storage, have a relatively short lifespan of ten years. They are recyclable, but are heavy, bulky and have the potential for spills and burns on the homeowner level.
The Tesla battery is a lithium ion battery. Lithium ion batteries have long been considered the next generation primarily because of their weight, and lifespan. By 2020, lithium batteries will power about 7% of the global transportation market, according to Toyota. So far, batteries consume only a small fraction of the world’s lithium supply, with primary reserves existing in Australia and South America. Vehicle manufacturers and governments are forging relationships with these countries to supply their future needs.
The Tesla power wall is compact, visually elegant, and requires the same solar equipment (solar panels, inverter & electrical panel). Will this unit start to take hold in U.S. markets? As Christopher Helman from Forbes Magazine points out, the battery back up system will increase the cost of solar installations by about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, so for now, grid-tied systems are still the best value for the person who wants to adopt solar in the near future and who is on-grid. If and when energy prices rise, or if local utilities begin the charge peak-hour rates for electricity, there may be a re-evaluation of this premise. And for off-grid adopters, the Tesla Powerwall is a viable battery storage system now.