Tech

Tesla’s Powerwall and other home batteries are part of a bigger movement

It seems like everyone is talking about EV batteries lately. Automakers are racing to make these batteries more powerful to convince more people to buy electric vehicles, and the Biden administration spend billions make the United States a manufacturing hub for next-generation battery technology. But even as EV batteries are in the spotlight, another type of battery is gaining momentum: home batteries.

The concept of a home battery is simple. Just like a laptop battery powers a laptop when it’s not plugged in, a home battery powers a home when it’s not powered by mains or renewable energy. Hundreds of thousands of people have already installed Tesla Powerwalls, solar-powered home storage batteries that provide several hours of backup power. And as extreme weather events, such as last year’s devastating winter storm in Texas, pushed the grid to its limits, more consumers started buying these and other types of home batteries.

The government is supporting similar types of power system upgrades. On Tuesday, the Department of Energy said that spend over $3 billion from the bipartisan Infrastructure Act regarding batteries for electric vehicles, as well as batteries designed for long-term energy storage, including batteries that could one day power people’s homes and businesses. This money will be used to finance projects aimed at increasing supplies to the United States. main battery componentsas well as the development of the country total battery production capacity. It is hoped that these investments will help the US build more batteries that can then be installed not only in people’s homes, but also in neighborhoods and across the grid, playing a critical role in easing growing pressure on the country’s aging energy infrastructure—and making it more efficient. elastic.

“We need to build clean homes and start with clean homes that are fully electrified, that use batteries to stabilize the load, and that are part of a clean grid,” Ryan Brown, CEO of small battery startup Salient, told Recode. “Otherwise, there is simply no good prospects for addressing climate change.”

This week, Salient announced a partnership with Texas-based sustainable housing company Horton World Solutions to demonstrate its new zinc-ion battery technology. If all goes according to plan, companies will install these batteries in more than 200,000 homes over the next decade.

Home batteries vary in size and energy storage capacity, and while many are based on familiar lithium-ion technology, some take advantage of stationarity to use more common materials such as zinc. Each battery – some people install multiple batteries for more storage – is usually the size of a TV and usually costs at least several thousand dollars. Apart from Tesla, there are several major electronics companies such as LG Chem and Panasonic – both of which engaged in the production of batteries for electric vehicles – who sell home batteries, as well as less well-known battery manufacturers such as Salient, Generacand enphase.

Larger batteries or large battery packs could power multiple homes at the same time. While these giant battery systems won’t fit in one home, they can be connected directly to the mains or to microgrids, which supply energy to an entire apartment building or district. Compared to a home battery in a single-family home, such a setup would allow entire communities of people to access electricity when electricity isn’t available or too expensive — which is why some experts say it’s a much fairer approach to the future of energy.

Regardless of their scale, home batteries and other types of stationary batteries have become an important part of efforts to increase the world’s supply of renewable energy in the fight against climate change. The reason is simple: because the sun isn’t always around to power solar panels, and there isn’t always wind to power turbines, utilities, and individuals. need batteries to store renewable energy to make sure it’s available when people really need it. Stationary batteries ultimately increase the overall power of the grid, which is especially important as we move towards electrification of things that are currently powered by fossil fuels.

“We’re also seeing a potential increase in the use of electric vehicles and even heat pumps to replace gas stoves,” Dharik Mallapragada, a fellow at MIT’s Energy Initiative, told Recode. “This is where batteries can come in handy because they can basically change consumption… in terms of how much you get from the grid.”

In addition to his administration’s latest investment in battery technology, President Joe Biden in March used the Defense Production Act order the production of critical materials needed for stationary storage, which he called “necessary for national defence”. Some state governmentsalong with utilities, have also begun offering people financial incentives to buy home batteries, and commercial batteries. California even updated your state energy code on demand that batteries are installed in all new commercial and high-rise apartment buildings, as well as solar panels.

“Over the next few years, everyone will realize they’re going to need a battery,” Jehu Garcia, a battery retailer who runs a DIY YouTube channel dedicated to batteries, told Recode. “Right now it’s kind of up for grabs: who’s going to make the move first? Will it be homeowners or utilities? But it will happen anyway.”

Even the electric vehicle industry is investing in stationary batteries. In addition to offering its Powerwall batteries to individuals, Tesla recently completed construction one of the largest batteries in the world for PG&E in Northern California and also began work on another universal battery outside of Houston, which could power 20,000 homes. CATL, a Chinese company that is arguably the world’s largest manufacturer of batteries for electric vehiclesannounced plans last month produce 900 battery systems for a Texas renewable energy company that will support the state’s beleaguered power grid. Meanwhile, GM is designing its Ultium batteries so that they can eventually be repurposed for provide long-term energy storageand Nissan announced earlier this year that check similar idea using their EV batteries at a power plant in Spain.

All of this represents progress, but also serves as a reminder that we may need all the batteries we can get. The International Energy Association estimates that to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, the world will need to increase battery capacity from the 17 gigawatts we had in 2020 to 585 gigawatts by the end of the decade. This means that batteries should be everywhere – in cars, in the basements of apartment buildings and in power plants. As daunting as this task may seem, it is just one piece of a very difficult puzzle to figure out how to deal with climate change.

This story was first published in the Recode newsletter. Sign here so you don’t miss the next one!




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