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By Tom Cassauwers
Before the hurricane came, I was a software engineer. I'd graduated with a bachelor's degree in graphic design and animation, but here in Puerto Rico there weren't many jobs in that field, so I taught myself how to code. When I began, I didn't even know how to make "hello world" appear. After a while, I was building full-blown apps.
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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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.
"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."
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.
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."
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.
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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:
Shareholders approved the $2.6 billion bid by Tesla Motors to buy SolarCity, paving the way for the clean energy giant to become a one-stop shop for electric vehicles, rooftop solar and energy storage.
"I think your faith will be rewarded," Elon Musk said after the merger was approved by 85 percent of the company's unaffiliated shareholders.
"We can't do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies," Musk said in August when Tesla announced it closed the deal with SolarCity. "That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history. Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together."
For a deeper dive:
The electric car company made the announcement Tuesday and explained the offer in a blog post:
Tesla’s mission has always been tied to sustainability. We seek to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation by offering increasingly affordable electric vehicles. And in March 2015, we launched Tesla Energy, which through the Powerwall and Powerpack allow homeowners, business owners and utilities to benefit from renewable energy storage.
It’s now time to complete the picture. Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently, but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun.
“The world does not look for another car company, the world looks for sustainable energy companies,” Musk told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday.
The prolific entrepreneur is the chairman of SolarCity, which was founded and is operated by his cousins, Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive. Musk is the largest individual shareholder of both companies, with 21.3 percent of Tesla and 22 percent of SolarCity, according to estimates.
SolarCity is the top residential solar installer in the country. Its customers pay for the panels with a monthly fee that's typically less than what they would pay to the power company. A marriage between the two companies would seamlessly tie SolarCity's panels with Tesla's Powerwall batteries. Having a solar-plus-storage system installed by a single company would allow an easier transition to customers to unhook themselves from a carbonized grid.
This morning, in a conference call to reporters and shareholders, Musk further discussed the rationale behind the offer. He said that the idea of consolidating Tesla and SolarCity "has been floated over the years" and it would be “extremely unwieldy” to operate as two companies.
In its blog post, Tesla listed off a number of "significant benefits to our shareholders, customers and employees" if the deal is completed:
- We would be the world’s only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end clean energy products to our customers. This would start with the car that you drive and the energy that you use to charge it, and would extend to how everything else in your home or business is powered. With your Model S, Model X, or Model 3, your solar panel system, and your Powerwall all in place, you would be able to deploy and consume energy in the most efficient and sustainable way possible, lowering your costs and minimizing your dependence on fossil fuels and the grid.
- We would be able to expand our addressable market further than either company could do separately. Because of the shared ideals of the companies and our customers, those who are interested in buying Tesla vehicles or Powerwalls are naturally interested in going solar, and the reverse is true as well. When brought together by the high foot traffic that is drawn to Tesla’s stores, everyone should benefit.
- We would be able to maximize and build on the core competencies of each company. Tesla’s experience in design, engineering, and manufacturing should help continue to advance solar panel technology, including by making solar panels add to the look of your home. Similarly, SolarCity’s wide network of sales and distribution channels and expertise in offering customer-friendly financing products would significantly benefit Tesla and its customers.
- We would be able to provide the best possible installation service for all of our clean energy products. SolarCity is the best at installing solar panel systems, and that expertise translates seamlessly to the installation of Powerwalls and charging systems for Tesla vehicles.
- Culturally, this is a great fit. Both companies are driven by a mission of sustainability, innovation, and overcoming any challenges that stand in the way of progress.
“This is what the world needs ... this is Earth’s solution,” Musk said of the merger this morning. Musk has long been a champion solar energy and highly critical of fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry.
“We have to look back on gas engine cars like we look back on steam engines,” as well as power from fossil fuels, Musk added.
The fact that Musk has the biggest slice of both companies leaves Musk in a bit of an awkward situation, media reports have noted. Electrek explained that the offer to SolarCity "will be contingent on a vote from the shareholders and Musk will abstain from voting his shares due to his vested interest in the deal."
Analysts and investors do not appear happy with the plan. Reuters reported that Tesla’s stock price spiraled more than 13 percent to $189.99 following the announcement yesterday. At the same time however, shares of SolarCity soared about 18 percent to $25.02.
Electrek also observed that shareholders are "calling the deal a 'bailout' of SolarCity, especially after Musk bought another $10 million worth of shares last year—before the stock fell 60 percent in 2016."
SolarCity is also in an ongoing battle against regulators and utilities in states that are unfriendly to rooftop solar, aka the "solar wars" in Nevada over net metering, which allows homeowners to offset the cost of their panels by selling any electricity they don’t use back to the grid. Nevada's NV Energy has been fighting these policies tooth and nail.
Musk, however, shot down the idea of a “bailout” of SolarCity, calling it a “false description.”
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A rendering of the completed Sparks, Nevada Tesla Gigafactory which will be topped by rooftop solar panels. The massive battery plant had its grand opening on July 29.Tesla Motors
Musk gave journalists a tour inside the company's massive Gigafactory Tuesday at it's grand opening celebration. The unflagging Tesla CEO told
BCC he wanted a factory "in Europe, in India, in China ... ultimately, wherever there is a huge amount of demand for the end product."
Indeed, demand is high for Tesla's products—the company received nearly 400,000 pre-orders for its highly anticipated $35,000 Model 3 sedan.
The Gigafactory will manufacture lithium-ion batteries for Tesla's electric cars and Powerwall products that store solar energy for homes and businesses.
To make its products, Tesla currently imports batteries from Japanese electronics company Panasonic. In order to meet Tesla's ambitious aim of producing 500,000 cars a year, it partnered with Panasonic to build the $5 billion Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada to make the batteries locally to speed up production and slash costs. By manufacturing the battery cells onsite, Musk said Tesla will be able to innovate faster and cut out about 30 percent of the cost, according to BBC.
"Where the shipping costs start to become significant, the obvious way to combat that is to at least put a Gigafactory on the same continent," Musk said.
The Associated Press reported that the Gigafactory is only 14 percent built after two years of construction. The original projected completion date for the massive project was 2020 but Musk is ramping up construction. Around 1,000 people are working seven days a week on two shifts so the factory can start producing batteries before the end of the year, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada is only 14 percent built after two years of construction.Tesla Motors
Once construction is complete, the Gigafactory will be about
three-fourths a mile long at an enormous 10 million square feet—the size of 262 NFL football fields. Musk noted that the factory could eventually employ 10,000 people in the next three to four years.
Not only will the Gigafactory be the world's largest building by footprint when construction finishes, it will be powered 100 percent by renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal, and will feature energy-storage technology. The company also plans for the building to achieve net zero energy.
Musk tweeted that the building will recycle old batteries—which will be highly necessary as Tesla aims to nearly double the world's production of lithium-ion batteries.
Tesla wants the Gigafactory to be a global powerhouse. As the Associated Press described of the company's goals:
Tesla says the factory will be producing 35 gigawatt hours of batteries by 2018. That's the equivalent to the entire world's production in 2014. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the factory has the capacity to produce 150 gigawatt hours if it needs to. To put that in context, New York City uses around 52 gigawatt hours of energy per year.
- Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
- Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
- Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
- Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it
"Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better," Musk wrote.
Looks like the extremely wealthy and politically influential Koch Brothers are waging a multimillion dollar war against the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) market, notably frustrating none other than EV titan Elon Musk.
Death to the electric car? Charles and David Koch are reportedly backing a new group that will use millions to promote petroleum and fight against government subsidies for electric vehicles. Photo credit: Flickr
In an effort to strike back at record-breaking EV sales, the fossil fuel industry is allegedly funding a new organization that will spend $10 million a year to push petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies on EVs, refining industry sources told the Huffington Post.
According to HuffPo, a Koch Industries board member and a veteran Washington energy lobbyist will be involved in the purported EV-squashing initiative.
“I think they (are) approaching all the major independent refiners,” one industry source explained to HuffPo.
The mission of the still-unnamed group will be to “make the public aware of all the benefits of petroleum-based transportation fuels,” the source said, adding that “the current administration has a bias toward phasing out” these fuels.
"(The Kochs are) worried about state and community subsidies," the source said. "In 20 years, electric vehicles could have a substantial foothold in the U.S. market.”
Oil baron brothers Charles and David Koch of are two of the four richest Americans according to Forbes, holding more than $80 billion combined in net worth. It's an open secret that the conservative oil barons have funneled eye-popping sums of money to curry influence in their favor, including nearly $1 billion to GOP candidates for the 2016 presidential election as well as vicious campaigns against climate change and renewable energy.
“The Kochs have invested heavily in a pugnacious defense of fossil fuel consumption,” a conservative energy analyst told HuffPo. “They’ve done this in the electricity sector, and as the debate shifts to transportation they’re behaving true to form.”
One source claimed that the new Koch-backed organization "may be doing work that’s now being done by the Institute for Energy Research.” The Institute for Energy Research (IER), registered by Charles Koch and energy expert Robert L. Bradley Jr., pushes for deregulation of utilities, climate change denial and claims that conventional energy sources are virtually limitless, according to SourceWatch.
Incidentally, the IER is behind an attack on Tesla's Powerwall, Autoblog reported. The IER claims that it will take nearly 40 years to pay off. Tesla responded, calling the report "elementary, at best, and completely misses the value of the Powerwall." The IER also responded to Tesla.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk—who believes electric cars “are the future”—breathed digital dismay over news of the Koch's latest assault, tweeting "Sigh ... " and linking the HuffPo report.
Musk followed with another tweet of a Guardian report that shockingly revealed $10 million a minute from global subsidies goes to fossil fuel companies, according International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates.
"Worth noting that all gasoline cars are heavily subsidized via oil company tax credits & unpaid public health costs," Musk wrote.
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Its only been a month since Elon Musk unveiled a game-changing suite of batteries for businesses, homes and utilities to help wean the world off fossil fuels. And now, the Tesla CEO is already upping the ante with the Powerwall, a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar power.
"We've dramatically increased the power capability of the Powerwall," Musk said at Tesla's annual stockholders' meeting in Mountain View, California this week. "It basically more than doubled the power output of the power pack, and the price is going to stay the same."
According to Computer World, prices for the products will stay at $3,000 for the seven kilowatt-hour (kWh) daily cycle version and $3,500 for the 10 kWh backup UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) version. The batteries will go from having a two kilowatt (kW) steady power output and a 3.3 kW peak output to a 5 kW steady output and 7 kW peak output.
"The daily cycler is sort of more about economics or getting off the grid completely, whereas the backup UPS is just there to ensure your house has power if there's ever a power outage," Musk explained.
Solar panel owners and future solar panel owners will receive "priority" treatment for delivery of the new Powerwall batteries, Computer World reported. "It doesn't have to be SolarCity," Musk said of his sister company, of which he's a chairman. "SolarCity is, of course, preferred, if you like the best." As we previously reported, the solar installer is the first in line to incorporate Tesla's new batteries.
The reason behind the upgrade came after the products received some criticism when they were first released. According to Edie.net, potential buyers alleged that the 2 kWh output wouldn't be enough to power a standard house. Additionally, Forbes staff writer Christopher Helman also crunched the numbers and found that the 15 cents per kWh of solar power (generated by SolarCity's panels) plus the 15 cents to cycle a kWh from the Powerwall add up to 30 cents per kWh of electricity, a "bonkers" amount considering that the national average for utility-provided electricity is 12.5 cents per kWh, Helman pointed out.
However, as Musk said at the shareholders' meeting, "We actually took some of the negative feedback to heart, and I'm happy to announce we've dramatically increased the power capability of the Powerwall." The added power capacity should power an entire house, provided the occupants aren’t running energy-hungry air condition units, Musk said.
Watch Musk (who starts speaking at 13:30) at the Tesla shareholders' meeting in the video below:
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk isn't just building the biggest battery factory in the world. When construction of his $5 billion Tesla Gigafactory is complete, the facility will be astoundingly clean and energy efficient.
Tesla had already announced that Gigafactory operations will be powered by renewable energy sources, with the goal of achieving net zero energy, meaning it generates and stores as much renewable energy as it needs to run the facility. However, not much has been said about how exactly the company was going to meet this ambitious goal, until now.
As reported by CleanTechnica (thanks to tipster Renaud Janson), Tesla’s Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel elaborated last week on the Gigafactory's net zero plans during a talk at the University of Nevada, Reno:
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.
Tesla wants operations to be completely carbon neutral, or have zero emissions just like the company's namesake electric vehicle. According to Straubel, the Gigafactory isn't even hooked up to gas:
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.
So it’s kind of been a fun activity and just, a lot of challenges that come up. But in every single step of the process, we have been able to reinvent and come up with solutions. 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.
The Gigafactory broke ground in June 2014 in Nevada and will be at full capacity by 2020. It will produce more lithium ion batteries annually than were produced worldwide in 2013, the company says.
Tesla's Gigafactory will produce batteries for both its high-end electric cars as well as for homes, businesses and utilities, with its Powerwall suite of batteries (which have already been sold out through 2016). Solar supplier and sister company SolarCity is also incorporating Tesla batteries for residential solar installations.
Musk isn’t shy about wanting to wean the world off of fossil fuels through renewable energy and energy storage.
“Our goal here is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy,” Musk said. “We’re talking at the terawatt scale. The goal is complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world.”
Watch Straubel's speech (he comes in at 9:57 and explains the Gigafactory's energy plans around an hour in) in the video below:
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