There is no industry that remains untouched by technology. Digital advancements have seeped into every corner of every market across the globe. The energy industry is no different.
The innovations just keep on coming. This was highlighted yet again when Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the introduction of the Tesla Powerwall last year.
The announcement was huge for energy industry leaders. A bona fide innovator in the automotive sector, Tesla has now firmly made a place for itself in the energy realm. A move that was cemented when the company chose to drop Motors from its name - now Tesla, Inc. - in pursuit of a more energy-focused purpose.
Fast forward to this year and the second generation of this home energy storage system (aptly named Powerwall 2) is now on the market. But what does Tesla's Powerwall mean for energy - and specifically New Zealand customers? And how does the device work in the first place? Let's take a closer look.
What does Tesla's Powerwall mean for NZ energy?
First things first: How does this affect you as a consumer and the NZ energy landscape as a whole?
On a broader scale, the Powerwall has the potential to decrease energy consumption on a national scale by reducing the wasted energy of individual households. It essentially functions as a storage unit for unused energy (more on this later). Conserving and then using energy that would otherwise be wasted can significantly reduce consumption rates as a whole.
The added benefit of reduced consumption for consumers (and their wallets) is a reduction in household energy costs. Powerwall can store energy at low usage times and then discharge the reserve at times of high activity. According to research by Lifehacker, using the Powerwall can save a single home about $1,375 annually.
The bottom line is that New Zealanders as a whole – business, government and consumers - can all positively benefit from the Powerwall if adoption rates were high. Lower consumption, lower bills and a greener environment.
How does it work?
Okay, so now that you know that that Powerwall has the potential to create a greener world while keeping more cash in your pocket - what is it exactly and how on earth does it work?
In the words of Tesla the Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at a residential level for self-consumption of solar power generation, emergency backup power, load shifting and other applications.
For solar, the Powerwall is charged via solar electricity. When the solar energy surpasses the amount needed for the current electricity generation, it is stored in the Powerwall.
Powerwall can also store utility-supplied energy. As mentioned above, the device can automatically store excess energy during times of low activity to be called upon in times of high activity. It's a much more efficient approach to energy, resulting in less waste.
While it does house a sleek design, the small device can hold as much as 10 kilowatt hours of energy, according to the Scientific American. This is enough to power the average home for around 10 hours.
Perhaps one of the most unique features of the Powerwall is the ability to run off stored energy during outages. For solar consumers, this is a considerable change. According to the Scientific American, solar panels typically need to be disconnected from the grid during a power outage. However, with the Powerwall there is now a buffer. For utility consumers, this provides a much sleeker alternative to a large back-up generator.
What implications does this have for the energy landscape as a whole?
The introduction of the Powerwall to the energy landscape was big. During an event in the US, Musk expressed his belief that the device has the potential to change the "entire energy infrastructure of the world."
The major implications obviously stem from the potential of a decreased dependence on the grid and an increased level of energy efficiency. This doesn't mean an elimination of utility company functions rather a potential working relationship with modern power companies and Tesla. It seems as though this is the future Tesla intends for Powerwall as the company has a utility-grade option for it.
"For utility scale systems, 100 kWh battery blocks are grouped to scale from 500 kWh to 10 MWh+. These systems are capable of two-hour or four-hour continuous net discharge power using grid tied bi-directional inverters," explained Tesla in a press release.
"Systems support applications including peak shaving, load shifting and demand response for commercial customers while offering, renewable firming and a variety of grid services at utility scales."
Whatever way you look at it, Tesla has certainly shaken up the game with the introduction of Powerwall and Powerwall 2 and it will be interesting to continue to see whether this tech will be more readily adopted by consumers across the globe.