Tesla gigafactory to be zero net energy, covered in solar | RenewEconomy

Tesla gigafactory to be zero net energy, covered in solar

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Tesla CTO says Nevada gigafactory will be zero net energy, with the entire roof and nearby hillsides covered in solar PV – and no gas supply at all.

Artist's rendering of the Tesla gigafactory
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The much talked about battery storage ‘Gigafactory’ that US electric vehicle maker Tesla is building in Nevada will be a zero net energy consumer, according to details revealed by a Tesla executive recently, its rooftops – and nearby hilltops – blanketed in solar panels.

The latest update on the project that has been the talk of the global battery boom came from Tesla’s chief technical officer, JB Straubel, as part of a talk at the University of Nevada.

Artist's rendering of the Tesla gigafactory
Artist’s rendering of the Tesla gigafactory

Straubel told the university that “from the get-go,” the company wanted to make the factory a beacon of energy efficiency and sustainability.

“So, you know, the most visible thing we are doing is covering the entire site with solar power,” he said, as reported on Treehugger.

“The whole roof of the Gigafactory was designed from the beginning with solar in mind. We kept all of the mechanical equipment off the roof. …It’s a very, very clean surface that we can completely cover in solar.

“But that’s not enough solar, though. So we have also gone to the surrounding hillsides that we can’t use for other functions and we’re adding solar to those.”

As TreeHugger points out, a lot is hingeing on the success of this Tesla offshoot, with its plans to produce more batteries than the whole world was producing in 2013.

Without it, Tesla will have trouble supplying the thousands of EVs it plans to start mobilising, and will struggle to get prices down low enough to shift its target from the prestige end of the market to Joe Average.

A work in progress…

Back to Straubel, however, who added that Tesla also wants to tightly manage the emissions from the Gigafactory.

“Solar power can do some of that, but we took kind of a radical move in the beginning and said we are not going to burn any fossil fuels in the factory. You know, zero emissions. We are going to build a zero-emissions factory — just like the car.

“So, instead of kind of fighting this battle in hindsight, we just said we are not even going to have a natural gas pipeline coming to the factory, so we didn’t even build it. And it kind of forced the issue. When you don’t have natural gas, you know, none of the engineers can say, ‘Oh, but it will be more efficient, let me use just a little bit.’ Sorry, we don’t even have it.

“…There’s a heat pump technology that actually ends up way more efficient than just burning natural gas for steam. And then, we have a facility that has basically no emissions. The only emissions are related to the vehicles that might go there that aren’t electric or things like that. But we’ll try to attack that one piece at a time.”

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  1. RobS 5 years ago

    It still baffles me why the roof of the Tesla vehicle factory hasn’t been covered too, surely Tesla could get a pretty sweet bulk buy discount through SolarCity.

    • nakedChimp 5 years ago

      If what has been reported and that plant is already pumping with all lines possible they might already have some new building in mind?!
      So why install some panels on a non-optimal building when you can do as they did with the Gigafactory 2-3 years down the road?

      • RobS 5 years ago

        The Nummi plant when run by GM and Toyota produced over 310,000 cars per year, Tesla’s current lines may be reaching capacity but I don’t think the plant is fully utilised, my understanding is that there are large areas of the factory still decommissioned.

        • Jonathan Prendergast 5 years ago

          A video I saw says the current plant has capacity for 100,000 cars per year. From what I have read they are only selling 30,000 cars per year at the moment.

          • RobS 5 years ago

            Yes, and with the the release of the model X and their general production ramping the aim is to produce 50,000 cars next year. They are quite a ways off reaching the capacity of the existing Nummi floor space.

  2. BsrKr11 5 years ago

    The real take away is that the roof of the largest building in the world is still insufficient to produce the energy intensity required for modern manufacturing requirements … if this isn’t possible with the requirements firmly in mind during the design stage how difficult will it be to retrofit existing buildings where sustainability was a dangerous threat to future prosperity?

    • RobS 5 years ago

      There is no need to produce 100% of our power requirements on the rooftop of each and every facility. Producing 50-60-70% onsite is plenty. Existing grid scale renewables already produce >15% of current power demands and there is enormous scope for more grid scale wind solar and other renewables. Renewables work best when functioning as a diversified suite of generators, diversified both in technology and geographic distribution. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Producing most of a building energy needs on its available rooftop is a huge first step that can be easily supplemented with existing and additional utility scale renewables.

    • Guy Vils 5 years ago

      Oh my, you might have to cover the parking lots too, how horrible.

    • Jim Young 5 years ago

      Walmart seems to be investing in commercial building solar, in what seems aimed at benefiting sellers more than consumers. I think we should apply similar self interest concerns for ourselves, and never allow ourselves to become as deeply reliant on such profiteers.

  3. Mike Ives 5 years ago

    That’s great news Sophie. Battery manufacture is very energy intensive as you are no doubt aware

  4. Coley 5 years ago

    Why stick to solar? the surrounding hills seem to be a perfect site for wind turbines.

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