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A rendering of the completed Sparks, Nevada Tesla Gigafactory which will be topped by rooftop solar panels. Photo: Tesla

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.

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.

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 facility will also be astoundingly clean and energy efficient, as it will be powered 100 percent by renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal and will feature energy-storage technology.

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."

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.

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."

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By Jeremy Deaton

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) took a shot at Sec. of Energy Rick Perry, former Republican governor of Texas. Remarking on Perry's view of Texas as an energy powerhouse, Brown said, "We've got more sun than you've got oil."

Recent data shows California coming through. The state briefly generated enough solar power to meet nearly half of the state's electricity needs, according to data from the largest grid operator in the state, California ISO.

Around midday on March 3, demand reached around 29 Gigawatts (GW), while solar was providing nearly 14 GW of generation—some 9 GW from utility-scale arrays and another 5 GW or so from rooftops and parking lot canopies around the state.

California's renewable energy output, midday on March 3.California ISO

Renewables are having a big moment. Solar is getting cheaper and cheaper, spurring Californians to set up photovoltaic panels on homes, businesses and empty lots across the state.

"It's remarkable that over a third of the solar power generated in California comes from smaller rooftop systems, meaning hundreds of thousands of homeowners are reaping the economic value generated from harnessing the sun rather than the state's big utility companies," said Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute.

To be fair, the numbers from California ISO are a little squishy. First, California ISO may be the biggest grid operator in California, but it is not the only grid operator. Its numbers do not account for power demand or solar generation in Los Angeles or Sacramento, for instance.

Second, there is no real-time data on California's rooftop solar generation. We know that California has about 5 GW of installed rooftop solar capacity, meaning that if every rooftop solar panel in the state pointed directly at the sun on a cloudless day, they would generate more than 5 GW. Under real-life conditions, they generate slightly less.

But while these numbers are a rough approximation, they illustrate the incredible growth of renewable energy. They also highlight the central challenge of integrating solar into the power grid.

California's net power demand, midday on March 3. California ISO

See the dotted blue line in the graph above? That represents estimated demand. The saddleback-shaped dip in the line is the handiwork of rooftop solar panels, which generate power locally, suppressing demand. After the sun sets, around 6 p.m., demand shoots up again.

But solar power isn't just coming from rooftops. It's also being generated by large-scale arrays operated by utilities. Subtract the electricity generated by utility-scale renewable energy and you get the net power demand, represented by the green line. The green line shows how much energy conventional power plants need to generate to keep the lights on in California. That enormous dip and the subsequent spike, form what energy geeks call the duck curve.

The duck curve, as illustrated by changes in changes net power demand in California. CAISO

Every year, California generates more and more power from solar, exacerbating that midday dip in net power demand. This is problematic, because it's expensive to ramp up power generation from coal- and gas-fired power plants at dusk. Fortunately, there are ways to flatten the duck curve: building out transmission lines to carry solar energy over state lines would broaden the demand; installing grid-enabled appliances that shift demand to the middle of the day; or deploying battery storage, like the Tesla Powerwall, that can store excess generation during the day and discharge it in the evening.

"We still need to make significant investments in energy storage technologies that will allow us to bank solar energy when it's being made so that it can be used whenever we need it, even at night," Ronen said.

The state is aiming to generate 50 percent of its power from renewables by 2030. As part of that effort, legislators are looking for ways to better integrate solar energy into the power grid—to drive down costs, improve performance and flatten ducks, wherever they may quack. So, in September, California passed four bills to expand the use of energy storage.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once described the states as laboratories of democracy. They are also laboratories for energy innovation. As the federal government lurches backwards on renewable energy and climate, California and other progressive states are pushing ahead, providing a model for the rest of country.

Should Texas, for example, want to take advantage of its abundant sunshine, California can show the Lone Star state how to do it.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

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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."

Next year, Tesla plans to begin rolling out the $35,000 Model 3 sedan and a new solar roof.

For a deeper dive:

LA Times, Reuters, CNBC, USA Today ,Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Financial Times, Greentech Media

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Plans for the world's first "Tesla town" are underway. YarraBend, a suburb-to-be located just outside of Melbourne's city center, is under development by local property group Glenvill.

The world's first "Tesla town" is coming to Melbourne, Australia. Glenvill

The developers have already put the first 60 homes on the market. The eco-friendly abodes will have rooftop solar, Tesla's battery storage system, electric car recharging points and energy efficient lighting as standard design features.

"Tesla Powerwalls are being installed in Park Precinct premium homes at YarraBend as part of our sustainability plan. Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels," Glevill wrote on an Instagram post. "Automated and safe, the Powerwall enables you to maximize household usage of solar power generation."

Elon Musk's game-changing suite of batteries for businesses, homes and utilities were designed to help wean the world off fossil fuels. The batteries store electricity generated from solar panels. (If everything goes to Musk's plan, the batteries will be charged with Tesla's own solar panels). Australia received its first shipment of Tesla Powerwalls roughly six months ago.

Living in this high-tech town, however, does come at a price. According to Australia renewable energy website One Step Off The Grid, the 16.46 hectare development will ultimately be home to 2,500 new residences, with three to five bedrooms houses, townhouses and apartments ranging from $1.48 million to $2.1 million in price.

It is not yet clear how many Powerwalls will be installed at YarraBend but based on the number of dwellings, it could number in the thousands, One Step Off The Grid reported.

The high price tag does include a number of amenities though. YarraBend's future residents will belong to a "Smartwired" community, Glenvill boasts on its website. The town will have high-speed internet and a "complimentary tech-concierge," a service that assists with tech-related tasks, from smart wiring to household WiFi set ups. Residents can also download the YarraBend app that provides community information such as public transport timetables, home delivery menus, carpooling arrangements and social events.

While the suburb is technologically advanced, it's also incredibly green. The landscape is surrounded by the tree-filled Darebin Parklands and Yarra Bend Park. The community will be home to a number of gardens, trails and parks, including an elevated park called The Paper Trail.

Public transportation is also encouraged, as the roads are inspired by Scandinavian bike-friendly cities. Bus stops and the Alphington train station are within walking distance.

"YarraBend will achieve the highest possible ESD (ecologically sustainable development) rating under the UDIA (Urban Development Institute of Australia) Envirodevelopment scheme, a first for an infill development site in Melbourne," Glenvill sales and marketing manager Nick Marinakis told the Heidelberg Leader.

UDIA's Victorian chief executive Danni Addison also told the Heidelberg Leader that YarraBend is one of the most environmentally sustainable developments in Australia with a water reduction of 43 percent, landfill reduced by 80 percent and the potential to reduce energy use by 34 percent.

"The Powerwalls, combined with solar panels (also standard), will mean that future residents will be able to benefit in a variety of ways, including dramatically smaller power bills and knowing that the majority of their energy usage is coming from a clean and renewable source," Addison said.

Elon Musk's Master Plan to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy is becoming reality. Tesla and Panasonic have officially kicked off the mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at the massive Gigafactory outside Sparks, Nevada.

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Even though Elon Musk once said that Donald Trump "doesn't seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States," the Tesla/SpaceX CEO is joining the president-elect's Strategic and Policy Forum, an advisory board for the president on business issues.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi were also named as strategic advisors on Wednesday.

"My Administration is going to work together with the private sector to improve the business climate and make it attractive for firms to create new jobs across the United States from Silicon Valley to the heartland," Trump said in a statement announcing the latest appointees.

Other high-profile CEOs on the 19-member Strategic and Policy Forum include Mary Barra of General Motors, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bob Iger of The Walt Disney Company, among others. The forum will be chaired by Stephen A. Schwarzman, who heads the investment firm Blackstone.

Members of the group will "be called upon to meet with the president frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the president implements his economic agenda," a media release explained.

Musk's willingness to take part in Trump's forthcoming administration—one that's filled with climate change deniers and fossil fuel barons, at that—is admittedly a head-scratcher. Similar questions were raised when Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore met with Trump and his daughter Ivanka. The Tesla boss is very outspoken on climate change issues and has built a renewable energy enterprise.

Musk is also a big proponent of a carbon tax to drive investments in clean tech. We have to "remove the effective subsidy of not pricing the damage done by carbon pollution," he said last year. Also, in an appearance in DiCaprio's climate change documentary Before The Flood, Musk said, "If governments can set the rules in favor of sustainable energy, then we can get there really quickly ... Only way to do that is through a carbon tax."

Trump, in contrast, famously believes that global warming is a hoax created by and for the Chinese. The hotelier has waged wars on windmills, calling them bird killers and a blight on the view of his luxury golf courses. As for solar, Trump said the booming sector is "so expensive" and "not working so good."

The president-elect also campaigned on slashing taxes across the board, axing President Obama's emissions regulations and exiting the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement.

However, a report from Recode suggests that Musk might use his clout to push for green initiatives. As Recode reporter April Glaser writes:

"Still, it's probably in Musk's favor to work with the incoming administration, especially as it starts to shape new policies that are dear to Musk's heart, like regulations to bring self-driving cars to U.S. roadways and whether to abide by the 2015 Paris climate agreement or pull out, a threat Trump made on the campaign trail.

"That doesn't sit well with Musk, who will likely urge the Trump administration to remain a signatory on the international climate accord. Reps for Musk did not immediately respond to request for comment."

Additionally, as Glaser notes, "Musk might be able to persuade the president-elect not to renege on the Paris agreement, which already lacks strong mechanisms for enforcement."

Glaser points out that secretary of state nominee/Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson—whose company announced its support of the Paris climate agreement and acknowledges the risks of climate change—also endorsed the idea of a national carbon tax.

But as the New York Times argues, Tillerson might only support the Paris agreement and a carbon tax if it does not harm his company's bottom line.

"Will Mr. Tillerson try to persuade Mr. Trump to support the international climate accord reached in Paris? He might, but he would probably stress the importance of natural gas and methods to bury carbon emissions—policies that would not hurt fossil fuel industries," the newspaper of record writes.

After all, Exxon sells a product that fuels climate change and the company has spent years and millions of dollars funding climate change denial.

Yesterday, a number of Silicon Valley executives gathered at Trump's "tech summit" at Trump Tower in New York. The group included Musk, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Timothy D. Cook of Apple, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Alphabet, Google's parent company, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and more.

"I'm here to help you folks do well, and you're doing well right now and I'm very honored by 'the bounce'—they're all talking about 'the bounce' and I know everybody in this room has to like me a little bit, but we're going to try and have that bounce continue," Trump said at the summit. "Perhaps even more importantly we want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There's nobody like you in the world. There's nobody like the people in this room."

Elon Musk doesn't just want to put solar tiles on top of your house, he also wants to put them on top of your car.

According to Futurism, shortly after the enigmatic Tesla CEO unveiled his company's latest twist on rooftop solar—glass tiles integrated with solar cells—he said on a Tuesday conference call that the technology will also be used for the Model 3, the company's mass market electric sedan.

"It is using a lot of techniques used in automotive glass business. In case it wasn't obvious with the announcement, Tesla has created a glass technology group—with some really phenomenal people," Musk said on the call, basically confirming Tesla's top secret glass division.

The Model 3's all-glass roof not only allows for more headroom, its integrated solar cells also generate heat and energy. Tesla

Electrek reported that Musk will be producing "Tesla Glass" in volume since it is fairly cheap, so it makes sense to it use extensively. The publication also noted that one member of the Tesla Glass group is director Mike Pilliod, a former materials engineer for Apple who was behind innovations like the glass touchscreen.

While Musk didn't give specific details about how the solar glass would work on a car, he later tweeted that the tiles would feature heating elements that can defrost a windshield or melt snow on the car roof all while generating energy at the same time.

When asked by a Twitter user whether the tiles would be working overtime as a defroster and a generator, Musk replied that the process will be “strongly net positive," or that it will use minimal energy.

Musk has long advocated for a sustainable transportation future, and is trying to do this with his proposed acquisition of sister company SolarCity.

As if he wasn't already all over the place, Musk made an appearance in Leonardo DiCaprio's new climate change documentary Before The Flood, and told the actor and environmental activist how we must transition from dirty energy.

"The fossil fuel industry is the biggest industry in the world," Musk told DiCaprio on the floor of his Nevada Gigafactory.

"They have more money and more influence than any other sector. The more that there can be a sort of popular uprising against that, the better, but I think the scientific fact of the matter is we are unavoidably headed towards some level of harm."

The vision behind the massive battery factory is to help the world transition to sustainable energy. In a blog post on Tuesday, the Tesla team elaborated on its mission of creating "the world's only integrated sustainable energy company, from energy generation to storage to transportation."

"This is our vision for the future—one that is sustainable, less expensive and just better," the post states. "We hope you agree that this is a future we should all want."

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Elon Musk's Master Plan: Part Deux is already coming to life.

Tesla Motors announced it has bought solar panel installer SolarCity for $2.6 billion in shares to create a seamless clean energy company. Or as Reuters puts it, consumers will now be allowed to buy solar panels, home battery storage systems and electric cars under one roof.

Tesla and SolarCity have created the world's first and only vertically integrated sustainable energy company.

Bloomberg tweeted that announcement was the "solar industry's biggest deal to date."

Tesla touted the merger in a blog post:

Just over a month ago, Tesla made a proposal to purchase SolarCity and today we are announcing that the two companies have reached an agreement to combine, creating the world's only vertically integrated sustainable energy company.

Solar and storage are at their best when they're combined. As one company, Tesla (storage) and SolarCity (solar) can create fully integrated residential, commercial and grid-scale products that improve the way that energy is generated, stored and consumed.

The enigmatic businessman perhaps poked fun at the historic vertical integration of the two companies in a classic Musk tweet:

According to MarketWatch, "SolarCity stockholders will receive 0.11 shares of Tesla for each SolarCity share, valuing them at $25.83 apiece."

Musk, who has long advocated for a sustainable transportation future, clearly stated in his Part Deux blog post that he wants his electric car company to "provide solar power."

"No kidding," he added. "This has literally been on our website for 10 years."

"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 continued. "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."

Tesla first announced the offer last month at a slightly higher price of $2.8 billion.

Musk stressed the importance of curbing use of dirty energy as quickly as possible. "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," he wrote.

Tesla said it expects that the merger will save customers money by lowering hardware costs, reducing installation costs, improve manufacturing efficiency and reducing customer acquisition costs.

The deal will now go to Tesla and SolarCity shareholders for approval. Musk, who is chairman of SolarCity and the largest investor in both companies has recused himself from the vote.

Last week, Tesla held a grand opening celebration of its massive Gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada.

The Gigafactory, which will be the world's largest building by footprint once construction is complete, will manufacture lithium-ion batteries for Tesla's electric cars and Powerwall products that store solar energy for homes and businesses.

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For Elon Musk, having one Gigafactory isn't enough. If all goes to plan, he wants to build Gigafactories on several continents.

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.

Musk has long advocated for a sustainable transportation future, and recently made a $2.8 billion move to acquire SolarCity to basically allow Tesla customers to drive on sunshine.

Last week, the entrepreneur further explained his grand plans when he unveiled his Master Plan, Part Deux. Climate Nexus summarized Musk's goals in four bullet points:

  • 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.

Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
A rendering of the completed Sparks, Nevada Tesla Gigafactory which will be topped by rooftop solar panels. Photo: Tesla

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.

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.

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 facility will also be astoundingly clean and energy efficient, as it will be powered 100 percent by renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal and will feature energy-storage technology.

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."

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.

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."

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By Jeremy Deaton

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) took a shot at Sec. of Energy Rick Perry, former Republican governor of Texas. Remarking on Perry's view of Texas as an energy powerhouse, Brown said, "We've got more sun than you've got oil."

Recent data shows California coming through. The state briefly generated enough solar power to meet nearly half of the state's electricity needs, according to data from the largest grid operator in the state, California ISO.

Around midday on March 3, demand reached around 29 Gigawatts (GW), while solar was providing nearly 14 GW of generation—some 9 GW from utility-scale arrays and another 5 GW or so from rooftops and parking lot canopies around the state.

California's renewable energy output, midday on March 3.California ISO

Renewables are having a big moment. Solar is getting cheaper and cheaper, spurring Californians to set up photovoltaic panels on homes, businesses and empty lots across the state.

"It's remarkable that over a third of the solar power generated in California comes from smaller rooftop systems, meaning hundreds of thousands of homeowners are reaping the economic value generated from harnessing the sun rather than the state's big utility companies," said Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute.

To be fair, the numbers from California ISO are a little squishy. First, California ISO may be the biggest grid operator in California, but it is not the only grid operator. Its numbers do not account for power demand or solar generation in Los Angeles or Sacramento, for instance.

Second, there is no real-time data on California's rooftop solar generation. We know that California has about 5 GW of installed rooftop solar capacity, meaning that if every rooftop solar panel in the state pointed directly at the sun on a cloudless day, they would generate more than 5 GW. Under real-life conditions, they generate slightly less.

But while these numbers are a rough approximation, they illustrate the incredible growth of renewable energy. They also highlight the central challenge of integrating solar into the power grid.

California's net power demand, midday on March 3. California ISO

See the dotted blue line in the graph above? That represents estimated demand. The saddleback-shaped dip in the line is the handiwork of rooftop solar panels, which generate power locally, suppressing demand. After the sun sets, around 6 p.m., demand shoots up again.

But solar power isn't just coming from rooftops. It's also being generated by large-scale arrays operated by utilities. Subtract the electricity generated by utility-scale renewable energy and you get the net power demand, represented by the green line. The green line shows how much energy conventional power plants need to generate to keep the lights on in California. That enormous dip and the subsequent spike, form what energy geeks call the duck curve.

The duck curve, as illustrated by changes in changes net power demand in California. CAISO

Every year, California generates more and more power from solar, exacerbating that midday dip in net power demand. This is problematic, because it's expensive to ramp up power generation from coal- and gas-fired power plants at dusk. Fortunately, there are ways to flatten the duck curve: building out transmission lines to carry solar energy over state lines would broaden the demand; installing grid-enabled appliances that shift demand to the middle of the day; or deploying battery storage, like the Tesla Powerwall, that can store excess generation during the day and discharge it in the evening.

"We still need to make significant investments in energy storage technologies that will allow us to bank solar energy when it's being made so that it can be used whenever we need it, even at night," Ronen said.

The state is aiming to generate 50 percent of its power from renewables by 2030. As part of that effort, legislators are looking for ways to better integrate solar energy into the power grid—to drive down costs, improve performance and flatten ducks, wherever they may quack. So, in September, California passed four bills to expand the use of energy storage.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once described the states as laboratories of democracy. They are also laboratories for energy innovation. As the federal government lurches backwards on renewable energy and climate, California and other progressive states are pushing ahead, providing a model for the rest of country.

Should Texas, for example, want to take advantage of its abundant sunshine, California can show the Lone Star state how to do it.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

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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."

Next year, Tesla plans to begin rolling out the $35,000 Model 3 sedan and a new solar roof.

For a deeper dive:

LA Times, Reuters, CNBC, USA Today ,Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Financial Times, Greentech Media

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Plans for the world's first "Tesla town" are underway. YarraBend, a suburb-to-be located just outside of Melbourne's city center, is under development by local property group Glenvill.

The world's first "Tesla town" is coming to Melbourne, Australia. Glenvill

The developers have already put the first 60 homes on the market. The eco-friendly abodes will have rooftop solar, Tesla's battery storage system, electric car recharging points and energy efficient lighting as standard design features.

"Tesla Powerwalls are being installed in Park Precinct premium homes at YarraBend as part of our sustainability plan. Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels," Glevill wrote on an Instagram post. "Automated and safe, the Powerwall enables you to maximize household usage of solar power generation."

Elon Musk's game-changing suite of batteries for businesses, homes and utilities were designed to help wean the world off fossil fuels. The batteries store electricity generated from solar panels. (If everything goes to Musk's plan, the batteries will be charged with Tesla's own solar panels). Australia received its first shipment of Tesla Powerwalls roughly six months ago.

Living in this high-tech town, however, does come at a price. According to Australia renewable energy website One Step Off The Grid, the 16.46 hectare development will ultimately be home to 2,500 new residences, with three to five bedrooms houses, townhouses and apartments ranging from $1.48 million to $2.1 million in price.

It is not yet clear how many Powerwalls will be installed at YarraBend but based on the number of dwellings, it could number in the thousands, One Step Off The Grid reported.

The high price tag does include a number of amenities though. YarraBend's future residents will belong to a "Smartwired" community, Glenvill boasts on its website. The town will have high-speed internet and a "complimentary tech-concierge," a service that assists with tech-related tasks, from smart wiring to household WiFi set ups. Residents can also download the YarraBend app that provides community information such as public transport timetables, home delivery menus, carpooling arrangements and social events.

While the suburb is technologically advanced, it's also incredibly green. The landscape is surrounded by the tree-filled Darebin Parklands and Yarra Bend Park. The community will be home to a number of gardens, trails and parks, including an elevated park called The Paper Trail.

Public transportation is also encouraged, as the roads are inspired by Scandinavian bike-friendly cities. Bus stops and the Alphington train station are within walking distance.

"YarraBend will achieve the highest possible ESD (ecologically sustainable development) rating under the UDIA (Urban Development Institute of Australia) Envirodevelopment scheme, a first for an infill development site in Melbourne," Glenvill sales and marketing manager Nick Marinakis told the Heidelberg Leader.

UDIA's Victorian chief executive Danni Addison also told the Heidelberg Leader that YarraBend is one of the most environmentally sustainable developments in Australia with a water reduction of 43 percent, landfill reduced by 80 percent and the potential to reduce energy use by 34 percent.

"The Powerwalls, combined with solar panels (also standard), will mean that future residents will be able to benefit in a variety of ways, including dramatically smaller power bills and knowing that the majority of their energy usage is coming from a clean and renewable source," Addison said.

Elon Musk's Master Plan to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy is becoming reality. Tesla and Panasonic have officially kicked off the mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at the massive Gigafactory outside Sparks, Nevada.

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Even though Elon Musk once said that Donald Trump "doesn't seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States," the Tesla/SpaceX CEO is joining the president-elect's Strategic and Policy Forum, an advisory board for the president on business issues.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi were also named as strategic advisors on Wednesday.

"My Administration is going to work together with the private sector to improve the business climate and make it attractive for firms to create new jobs across the United States from Silicon Valley to the heartland," Trump said in a statement announcing the latest appointees.

Other high-profile CEOs on the 19-member Strategic and Policy Forum include Mary Barra of General Motors, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bob Iger of The Walt Disney Company, among others. The forum will be chaired by Stephen A. Schwarzman, who heads the investment firm Blackstone.

Members of the group will "be called upon to meet with the president frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the president implements his economic agenda," a media release explained.

Musk's willingness to take part in Trump's forthcoming administration—one that's filled with climate change deniers and fossil fuel barons, at that—is admittedly a head-scratcher. Similar questions were raised when Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore met with Trump and his daughter Ivanka. The Tesla boss is very outspoken on climate change issues and has built a renewable energy enterprise.

Musk is also a big proponent of a carbon tax to drive investments in clean tech. We have to "remove the effective subsidy of not pricing the damage done by carbon pollution," he said last year. Also, in an appearance in DiCaprio's climate change documentary Before The Flood, Musk said, "If governments can set the rules in favor of sustainable energy, then we can get there really quickly ... Only way to do that is through a carbon tax."

Trump, in contrast, famously believes that global warming is a hoax created by and for the Chinese. The hotelier has waged wars on windmills, calling them bird killers and a blight on the view of his luxury golf courses. As for solar, Trump said the booming sector is "so expensive" and "not working so good."

The president-elect also campaigned on slashing taxes across the board, axing President Obama's emissions regulations and exiting the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement.

However, a report from Recode suggests that Musk might use his clout to push for green initiatives. As Recode reporter April Glaser writes:

"Still, it's probably in Musk's favor to work with the incoming administration, especially as it starts to shape new policies that are dear to Musk's heart, like regulations to bring self-driving cars to U.S. roadways and whether to abide by the 2015 Paris climate agreement or pull out, a threat Trump made on the campaign trail.

"That doesn't sit well with Musk, who will likely urge the Trump administration to remain a signatory on the international climate accord. Reps for Musk did not immediately respond to request for comment."

Additionally, as Glaser notes, "Musk might be able to persuade the president-elect not to renege on the Paris agreement, which already lacks strong mechanisms for enforcement."

Glaser points out that secretary of state nominee/Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson—whose company announced its support of the Paris climate agreement and acknowledges the risks of climate change—also endorsed the idea of a national carbon tax.

But as the New York Times argues, Tillerson might only support the Paris agreement and a carbon tax if it does not harm his company's bottom line.

"Will Mr. Tillerson try to persuade Mr. Trump to support the international climate accord reached in Paris? He might, but he would probably stress the importance of natural gas and methods to bury carbon emissions—policies that would not hurt fossil fuel industries," the newspaper of record writes.

After all, Exxon sells a product that fuels climate change and the company has spent years and millions of dollars funding climate change denial.

Yesterday, a number of Silicon Valley executives gathered at Trump's "tech summit" at Trump Tower in New York. The group included Musk, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Timothy D. Cook of Apple, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Alphabet, Google's parent company, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and more.

"I'm here to help you folks do well, and you're doing well right now and I'm very honored by 'the bounce'—they're all talking about 'the bounce' and I know everybody in this room has to like me a little bit, but we're going to try and have that bounce continue," Trump said at the summit. "Perhaps even more importantly we want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There's nobody like you in the world. There's nobody like the people in this room."

Elon Musk doesn't just want to put solar tiles on top of your house, he also wants to put them on top of your car.

According to Futurism, shortly after the enigmatic Tesla CEO unveiled his company's latest twist on rooftop solar—glass tiles integrated with solar cells—he said on a Tuesday conference call that the technology will also be used for the Model 3, the company's mass market electric sedan.

"It is using a lot of techniques used in automotive glass business. In case it wasn't obvious with the announcement, Tesla has created a glass technology group—with some really phenomenal people," Musk said on the call, basically confirming Tesla's top secret glass division.

The Model 3's all-glass roof not only allows for more headroom, its integrated solar cells also generate heat and energy. Tesla

Electrek reported that Musk will be producing "Tesla Glass" in volume since it is fairly cheap, so it makes sense to it use extensively. The publication also noted that one member of the Tesla Glass group is director Mike Pilliod, a former materials engineer for Apple who was behind innovations like the glass touchscreen.

While Musk didn't give specific details about how the solar glass would work on a car, he later tweeted that the tiles would feature heating elements that can defrost a windshield or melt snow on the car roof all while generating energy at the same time.

When asked by a Twitter user whether the tiles would be working overtime as a defroster and a generator, Musk replied that the process will be “strongly net positive," or that it will use minimal energy.

Musk has long advocated for a sustainable transportation future, and is trying to do this with his proposed acquisition of sister company SolarCity.

As if he wasn't already all over the place, Musk made an appearance in Leonardo DiCaprio's new climate change documentary Before The Flood, and told the actor and environmental activist how we must transition from dirty energy.

"The fossil fuel industry is the biggest industry in the world," Musk told DiCaprio on the floor of his Nevada Gigafactory.

"They have more money and more influence than any other sector. The more that there can be a sort of popular uprising against that, the better, but I think the scientific fact of the matter is we are unavoidably headed towards some level of harm."

The vision behind the massive battery factory is to help the world transition to sustainable energy. In a blog post on Tuesday, the Tesla team elaborated on its mission of creating "the world's only integrated sustainable energy company, from energy generation to storage to transportation."

"This is our vision for the future—one that is sustainable, less expensive and just better," the post states. "We hope you agree that this is a future we should all want."

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Elon Musk's Master Plan: Part Deux is already coming to life.

Tesla Motors announced it has bought solar panel installer SolarCity for $2.6 billion in shares to create a seamless clean energy company. Or as Reuters puts it, consumers will now be allowed to buy solar panels, home battery storage systems and electric cars under one roof.

Tesla and SolarCity have created the world's first and only vertically integrated sustainable energy company.

Bloomberg tweeted that announcement was the "solar industry's biggest deal to date."

Tesla touted the merger in a blog post:

Just over a month ago, Tesla made a proposal to purchase SolarCity and today we are announcing that the two companies have reached an agreement to combine, creating the world's only vertically integrated sustainable energy company.

Solar and storage are at their best when they're combined. As one company, Tesla (storage) and SolarCity (solar) can create fully integrated residential, commercial and grid-scale products that improve the way that energy is generated, stored and consumed.

The enigmatic businessman perhaps poked fun at the historic vertical integration of the two companies in a classic Musk tweet:

According to MarketWatch, "SolarCity stockholders will receive 0.11 shares of Tesla for each SolarCity share, valuing them at $25.83 apiece."

Musk, who has long advocated for a sustainable transportation future, clearly stated in his Part Deux blog post that he wants his electric car company to "provide solar power."

"No kidding," he added. "This has literally been on our website for 10 years."

"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 continued. "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."

Tesla first announced the offer last month at a slightly higher price of $2.8 billion.

Musk stressed the importance of curbing use of dirty energy as quickly as possible. "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," he wrote.

Tesla said it expects that the merger will save customers money by lowering hardware costs, reducing installation costs, improve manufacturing efficiency and reducing customer acquisition costs.

The deal will now go to Tesla and SolarCity shareholders for approval. Musk, who is chairman of SolarCity and the largest investor in both companies has recused himself from the vote.

Last week, Tesla held a grand opening celebration of its massive Gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada.

The Gigafactory, which will be the world's largest building by footprint once construction is complete, will manufacture lithium-ion batteries for Tesla's electric cars and Powerwall products that store solar energy for homes and businesses.

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For Elon Musk, having one Gigafactory isn't enough. If all goes to plan, he wants to build Gigafactories on several continents.

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.

Musk has long advocated for a sustainable transportation future, and recently made a $2.8 billion move to acquire SolarCity to basically allow Tesla customers to drive on sunshine.

Last week, the entrepreneur further explained his grand plans when he unveiled his Master Plan, Part Deux. Climate Nexus summarized Musk's goals in four bullet points:

  • 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.

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