The $800 million (US $634 million) project—struck in February by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill—involves installing solar panels and batteries on 50,000 homes to function as an interconnected power plant.
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California could become the first state in the country to require solar panels on most new homes.
The state's energy commission will vote on the new standard on Wednesday, May 9 and they are expected to approve it, the Orange County Register reported.
Tesla Restores Power to Children's Hospital in Puerto Rico in 'First of Many' Solar + Storage Projects
Making good on the promise, Tesla has switched on a combination of its solar panels and Powerpack commercial energy storage batteries for Hospital del Niño, a children's hospital in San Juan. The Puerto Rican capital was hit especially hard by Hurricane Maria.
The plan involves installing a 5-kilowatt solar system and a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery on roughly 50,000 homes across the state over the next four years. The setup will be installed at no charge to the households and financed through the sale of electricity.
"I have them on my house, JB has them on his house," Musk revealed, referring to J.B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer. "This is version one. I think this roof is going to look really knock-out as we just keep iterating."
If we want to accelerate the world's renewable energy transition, we'll have to modernize the electric grid and we'll need much better batteries. Just look at Germany, which generates so much clean energy on particularly windy and sunny days that electricity prices are often negative.
Sure this is good news for a German person's wallet, but as the New York Times noted, "Germany's power grid, like most others around the world, has not yet adapted to the increasing amounts of renewable energy being produced."
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The Tesla Tiny House is currently being towed on the back of a Model X around Australia to exhibit the company's products and to teach the public how to generate, store and use renewable energy for their own home, according to Electrek.
Cali Nurseries grower Hector Santiago told Reuters that his $300,000 investment on 244 solar panels six years ago has allowed him to continue working.
During a press event at Universal Studios in LA, Musk announced that Tesla will build and sell its own line of solar panels with integrated batteries.
"We're reaching record CO2 levels," Musk said as he began his presentation. "Global warming is a serious crisis and we need to do something about that."
"We need to make solar panels as appealing as electric cars have become," Musk said as he explained his vision.
The tiles, Musk boasted, are made of textured glass integrated with solar cells and look very similar to traditional roof tiles. The solar roof would cost less than a conventional roof and could be rolled out as early as next summer.
The upgraded PowerWall 2 will allow residential homeowners to replace their entire roof with solar panels, making it much simpler for homes to be entirely powered by solar power.
For a deeper dive:
At the grand opening of Tesla's enormous Gigafactory in July, CEO Elon Musk said he wants to build Gigafactories on several continents. He told BBC he wanted a factory "in Europe, in India, in China ... ultimately, wherever there is a huge amount of demand for the end product."
Well, it looks like Musk's factory-building plans are well underway.
.@elonmusk speaking to the media at the Tesla Gigafactory. https://t.co/Rh41VqNK3y— This Is Reno (@This Is Reno)1469574015.0
The company said in its fourth-quarter investor letter on Wednesday that it is considering building up to five Gigafactories.
The letter states:
"Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3. Later this year, we expect to finalize locations for Gigafactories 3, 4 and possibly 5 (Gigafactory 2 is the Tesla solar plant in New York)."
Tesla officially flicked on Gigafactory 1's switch in January. The factory produces lithium-ion battery cells for Tesla's suite of battery storage products, the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, as well as the company's mass-market electric car, the Model 3.
Tesla Flips Switch on Gigafactory to Accelerate World's Transition to Renewable Energy https://t.co/tpAJAUBJiO @BusinessGreen @Ethical_Corp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483671307.0
Gigafactory 1 is currently being built in phases so that the company and its partners can manufacture products while the building continues to expand. Construction is expected for completion by 2018, at which point the plant could claim the title of world's largest building by footprint.
The company also plans for the building to achieve net zero energy. Tesla co-founder and chief technical officer JB Straubel once explained why Tesla wanted Gigafactory operations to be completely carbon neutral:
"The Gigafactory is maybe the best example we can talk about with this. You know, from the get-go, from the first concept of this factory, we wanted to make it a net-zero facility. So, you know, the most visible thing we are doing is covering the entire site with solar power. 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. We didn't put extra, sorta, penetrations through the roof that we didn't need to and 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."
Elon Musk: Tesla Battery Will 'Fundamentally Change the Way the World Uses Energy' http://t.co/vjWsbkX4AX @Act4Renewables @Ecofys— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1430604917.0
According to Straubel, the Gigafactory isn't even hooked up to any natural gas pipelines:
"The other interesting thing is we wanted to 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."
In December, Tesla and Panasonic launched operations at its Buffalo, New York plant, now dubbed Gigafactory 2. The factory manufactures high-efficiency photovoltaic cells and modules for solar panels and solar glass tiles for Tesla's highly anticipated solar roof.
Musk to Put Solar Glass on Tesla Model 3, Tells DiCaprio We Must Transition From Dirty Energy https://t.co/bFOQfBuVIx @foeeurope— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478221508.0
Tesla's factories are all part of the company's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.
In last year's climate change documentary Before The Flood, Musk takes Leonardo DiCaprio on a tour of Tesla's massive Gigafactory in Nevada. During their chat, the Tesla CEO tells the actor and famed environmentalist that it would only take 100 Gigafactories to transition "the whole world" to sustainable energy.
With at least five Gigafactories in the books, looks like Musk's plans are slowly becoming reality. For what it's worth, even DiCaprio said building one-hundred Gigafactories "sounds manageable."