A green energy-induced hiatus

Spending time with the greenies.  Source: Google Images.

Spending time with the greenies. Source: Google Images.

I feel the need to apologise for being utterly absent these past couple weeks.  The truth is I’m now spending quite a bit of time on a (paying!) project – helping build a number of renewable energy power plants.  Something deeply satisfying about working with tangible inputs and outputs for once.

Anyway, once the dust settles with company start-ups and related work, I’ll be back to my old musings.

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Brand name batteries

Charged up.  Source: Google images.

Charged up. Source: Google images.

Late to the game with this, but Tesla’s new home battery is proper exciting.  Why?  Well…

  • First, the somewhat negative angle.  The technology isn’t really new, it’s like a repackaging of the best available production tech.  We’ve all heard of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in loads of applications (e.g. laptops and Tesla cars).  So not exactly a tech marvel.
  • BUT.  Think Apple with the iPad, iPhone, iPod, etc.  Not exactly new tech, but new fun applications of same tech.  If Tesla can take what seems to be a big car battery and convince folks to stick it on a wall, the environmental and economic effects can be massive.
  • Massive?  I’ve written before about how battery storage is THE way of the future for electricity supply.  In sum, the very environmentally friendly electricity comes at the cost of intermittency – think about when the sun shines or wind blows.  We need efficient and inexpensive battery storage to compensate for the intermittency (the other method is natural gas…not as eco friendly).  Tesla’s home battery is a step in that very direction – use the big battery to smooth out demand from the power grid, taking power when it’s cheap and providing power when it’s expensive.
  • But could there be more?  Consider developing economies, which use a lot less electricity than the US on a per-capita basis.  Now the existing tech might actually provide days worth of power (maybe), such that no grid is necessary – just have the neighbourhood solar cells or windmill.  Just like the village well, this might help out a lot of very remote people.
  • Still too early.  I was happy to see this brief economic analysis of the home battery (I wanted to see some figures before I commented).  It seems the pricing of the battery is kinda-there for those with high electricity bills (e.g. California, Europe).  If the Tesla ‘giga-factory’ can really churn these out, such that costs drop by the 50% or so mooted, the battery goes from early-adopters to mainstream, methinks.  Exciting.

Anyway, I can’t wait for the day when all the NIMBY complaints can focus on windmills or solar cells, rather than high-voltage power lines.  The former seem to me a lot more parochial and funny than the latter – i.e. they have a point to complain about eye-sores that may cause cancer.