Tesla's Powerwall: a leap forward for green energy

Tesla's new battery technology could revolutionise the energy market.


Tesla's Powerwall technology could revolutionise the energy market

Electric car maker Tesla is launching a range of large lithium batteries to allow homes and businesses to store solar-generated energy, which can be drawn on even when the sun isn't shining possibly even bypassing the grid. At present, much solar energy is wasted due to high storage costs.

Batteries that can store energy exist, but are based on old technologies and are very expensive. Tesla's Powerwall system offers a 10kwh battery for $3,500 and a 7kwh one for $3,000.

What the commentators said

Large-scale energy storage technology is key to making green energy competitive with fossil fuels. Utilities often have to turn to fossil fuels to plug energy gaps when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing. But large-scale batteries could eliminate "one of the chief advantages fossil fuel generators have".

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Not so fast, said Christopher Helman on Forbes. Powerwall won't make solar economic for most households and businesses unless their solar system is already big enough to cover all their electricity needs, or entirely disconnected from the grid. For now, it's just "another toy for rich green people".

But costs should fall not least because Tesla is tackling one of the reasons lithium battery prices have stayed high, said the BBC: a dearth of firms making them. Tesla is building a huge factory, to be finished in 2020. Other companies are also working on home power storage.

If the factory works smoothly, battery costs keep falling and the solar market grows, Tesla's batteries "could give [its] vehicles a run for their money", reckoned Kevin Allison on breakingviews.com. That "may bring some sense to Tesla's charged-up stockmarket valuation".

Andrew Van Sickle

Andrew is the editor of MoneyWeek magazine. He grew up in Vienna and studied at the University of St Andrews, where he gained a first-class MA in geography & international relations.

After graduating he began to contribute to the foreign page of The Week and soon afterwards joined MoneyWeek at its inception in October 2000. He helped Merryn Somerset Webb establish it as Britain’s best-selling financial magazine, contributing to every section of the publication and specialising in macroeconomics and stockmarkets, before going part-time.

His freelance projects have included a 2009 relaunch of The Pharma Letter, where he covered corporate news and political developments in the German pharmaceuticals market for two years, and a multiyear stint as deputy editor of the Barclays account at Redwood, a marketing agency.

Andrew has been editing MoneyWeek since 2018, and continues to specialise in investment and news in German-speaking countries owing to his fluent command of the language.