This article was first published in the June/July 2015 issue of North Simcoe Life.

Tesla Powerwall

The Powerwall Tesla Home Battery

Democracy is knocking on the door. Huge capitally intensive industries barricade the entrance. We are their captives with nowhere else to turn for the energy we need to power our lives. They use their money and influence to mold public policy without regard for social justice or ecological wisdom. The result: we fail to act on climate change. And we’re told we have no choice but to fund multi-billion dollar nuclear power, although no one has a clear idea about what to do with the radioactive waste.

There is a key that will unlock the door: new efficient ways to capture and store renewable energy.

On April 30, 2015 Tesla Energy launched Powerwall, its lithium-ion battery for home use. (Systems for businesses and utilities are also available.) Suddenly, energy sustainability and self-reliance have arrived on our doorstep. The Tesla Powerwall comes at a fraction of the price of previous systems. For $3,000 US (plus installation and the purchase of a DC-AC inverter), you can mount the system on your garage wall, store energy produced by your solar panels or produced by the grid at off-peak prices, run your home on battery power during peak evening hours, and power up your plug-in car. The system also automatically switches your home to battery power during power outages, making noisy, dirty, cumbersome generators a relic of the past. If you want to disconnect completely from the grid, you can link up to 9 units together.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SolarCity, claims that he and his competition will sell 2 billion battery packs. His vision, no less, is to reshape the power grid with millions of small power plants made of solar panels on roofs and batteries in garages. Is he crazy? Consider his quote about the sun.

“The sun, that highly convenient and free fusion reactor in the sky, radiates more energy to the Earth in a few hours than the entire human population consumes from all sources in a year.”

If you think Tesla’s Powerwall is exciting, wait to you hear about the revolutionary flow battery of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The team, led by Professor Michael J. Aziz, has developed a battery that can easily be scaled down for home use or scaled up to store surplus energy from a whole wind farm. It is fueled through an electrochemical process by an abundant, safe, low-cost organic chemical dissolved in water. It charges about 1000 times faster than former systems that used expensive and toxic fuel sources. And it has near unlimited longevity. In short, it promises massive electrical storage at greatly reduced cost. Harvard’s business partner, Sustainable Innovations is currently working on a prototype. It won’t be long before we get our hands on it. They project the development of a multi-billion dollar industry by 2020.

Yes, the behemoths that block the door should be scared. With abundant renewable energy captured and stored economically, we won’t need them anymore. It’s time we all join forces, take control of our destiny, and shove them out of the way. Democracy has arrived. Are you ready to participate?