Tesla boss Elon Musk has flagged a significant upgrade to the capabilities of the Powerwall 2 battery storage unit as the company reports a surge in demand in the wake of recent blackouts in Texas and California.
The company reported a continuing surge in demand of home battery storage systems, even as it struggles to catch up to a backlog caused by a shortage of battery cells, but the real interest was shown in the talk of a “Powerwall Plus” with significant new features.
First, though, to the demand equation.
“The recent snowstorm in Texas and other blackout events continue to drive customers toward home energy storage solutions,” the company said in its quarterly earnings report, which delivered record profits and revenues, including its first quarterly net profit of more than $US1 billion.
Tesla says demand continues to far exceed the company’s production rate and its backlog remains significant. So much so that it recently decreed that – in the US at least – it would only sell Powerwall batteries to customers who already have or are ordering rooftop solar.
Likewise, Musk re-iterated in the earnings call that Tesla won’t sell solar products unless a Powerwall is also included as part of the deal.
“As we increase our production rate, we may make it (Powerwall) available once again as a stand-alone product,” the company said.
The interesting product news came in confirmation from Musk that Tesla is considering an upgrade to its popular Powerwall 2 unit. Musk said the “Powerwall plus” said would have twice the power capability of the battery, suggesting its charging rate could be double to 10kW and its peak discharge rate to 14kW. The total storage remains at 13.5kWh.
But Musk raised most interest with his reference to the changes in the installation, suggesting a direct connection that would simplify the process and make it a completely integrated unit.
Musk said this would ensure that every house with battery storage would effectively be its own utility. “Even if all lights go out in the neighborhood, you will still have power, so that that gives people energy security.”
He also talked of delivering grid services, and power, to utilities in states like Texas, effectively rolling out “virtual power plants” like those that are already being seen in Australia, particularly in South Australia.
“If the grid needs more power, we can actually then, with the consent obviously of the homeowner and the kind of partnership with the utility, we can then actually release power onto the grid to take care of peak power demands,” Musk said.
“So effectively, the Powerwalls can operate as a giant distributed utility. This is profound. We are headed towards a world where, as we were just talking about earlier, where people are moving towards electric vehicles. This will mean that the power needs in at homes and businesses will increase significantly. There will need to be a bunch of electricity coming from somewhere.”
Musk said battery storage was the long term solution to a sustainable energy future, both at local level and at the utility level.
“The technology exists today, to solve, renewable energy,” Musk said. “You can’t just go and do a zillion terawatts overnight. You’ve got a both the production capacity for the cells for the battery cells for solar cells, you’ve got to put that into vehicles, you’ve got to put that into stationary storage packs, you’ve got to put into solar panels and solar glass roofs, and you’ve got to deploy all this stuff.
“But it is certainly the case that we can accelerate. And we should try to accelerate it. And the right thing to do I think from an economic standpoint, most economists would agree, is to have a carbon tax. Just as we have a tax on cigarettes and alcohol, which we think are more likely to be bad than good.
“I’m not suggesting anyone be complacent but sustainable energy renewable energy will be solved. It is being solved, but it matters how fast it is resolved. And if we solve it faster, that’s better.”
Tesla’s battery storage sales were up 71 per cent over the previous March quarter, although down on the fourth quarter of last year which was boosted by deliveries to major utility scale contracts.
“Energy storage deployments can vary meaningfully quarter to quarter depending on the timing of specific project milestones, which is the driver behind the sequential decline in MWh,” it said. “Production of energy storage products improved further sequentially as our backlog remains long.”