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GOP congressman powers his off-grid solar home with Tesla battery

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Think Progress

Screenshot of Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) in his garage, before he salvages a Tesla car battery pack to run his off-grid home.

Congressman Thomas Massie (Republican-Kentucky) is an MIT-trained engineer and libertarian who has been living off-grid with his family for over a decade and driving a Tesla Model S for five years.

On Sunday, he posted a YouTube video on his “DIY battery quest” to replace the 12-year-old lead-acid batteries with some new Tesla lithium batteries.

As he explains, while living off-grid is expensive, the new batteries could cut his nighttime electricity costs in half, from $0.25 a kilowatt hour to $0.12 a kilowatt hour, which is close to the price of retail electricity.

But while Elon Musk makes his popular Powerwall battery for use with residential solar systems, Tesla doesn’t sell one for off-grid use. And Tesla won’t sell you Model S batteries by themselves.

So, being an engineer, Massie decided to see if he could buy a wrecked Tesla vehicle, salvage the batteries, and then retool them for use in his home.

This 23-minute video documents what he calls a “pretty dag-gone exciting” do-it-yourself adventure, in which he travels to Georgia to buy a wrecked Tesla Model S for $15,000 and successfully uses its  lithium battery to replace the messy and high maintenance lead-acid batteries.

Massie was motivated by his strong libertarian streak, as he told the center-right website Rare.us Wednesday: “When you go off-the-grid, you have more choices for where to build your house. Land that wasn’t developable because of a lack of access to public utilities suddenly becomes viable by going off the grid. Plus homeowners won’t have to run wires across their neighbors’ land.”

But while Massie is not your typical partisan Republican — he won the first Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventiveness ever awarded — he doesn’t embrace climate science.

He told Science magazine back in 2012, “Most of the public is still debating whether the earth is heating up. But I think the real question is by how much? I’m still looking for an answer I can hold onto.”

Massie added, “I honestly think that it’s an open question… I think the jury is still out on the contribution of our activities to the change in the earth’s climate.”

In fact, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change, and that the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all recent warming. And they have known that for years.

Source: Think Progress. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • Joe

    Perhaps the Massie should have a little talk with fellow Republican Party member and former ‘Governator’, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Arnie will soon put to rest any doubts that the Massie may still have.

  • Eclectic Eel

    It’s amazing how many engineers deny the science of climate change. I know of two personally. It’s almost as though the scientific nature of engineering has been suspended in their unquestioning belief that humans can manipulate nature to suit their vision of the future. I’m a huge fan of many great engineering feats of the past but can’t understand their tunnel vision when they should be trying to grasp the big picture.

    • Ren Stimpy

      At least some of the technical people like Massie here are on the path to the climate change solution, even if it’s driven only by their own self-interest for cost savings and efficiency. Though it’s still funny that these individualistic libertarians are being enabled in their lifestyle by the broader collective push to develop technology to solve climate change.

  • Brunel

    Does Tesla really not sell Powerwalls for off-grid purposes? In the Powerwall 1.0 launch, Mr Musk said “you can go completely off grid”.

    And that is U$.25 not A$0.25.

    • neroden

      Well, as with everything Tesla, the devil is in the timing. Tesla is perfectly happy to sell you a Powerwall for off-grid use, but delivery date is another matter. People who reserved theirs two years ago may be waiting several more years.

  • Phil

    If Only Australia had electricity that cheap.

    Not to mention a daily access charge for poles and wires of $1.60 per day inc gst in regional NSW ( Australia)

  • Phil

    My D.I.Y 100% off grid system using forklift wet cells is fully funded in perpetuity at $2.20 (Aus) per day with triple redundancy. And 99.9999 % uptime @ 10kwh per day average consumption 3kw cont/9 peak @ 240 volt output. Or about half the cost of the regional NSW grid which only has 99% uptime. I also use 32kg of LPGas p/a and wood heat