You may not be able to afford to cruise the Pacific Coast Highway in a Tesla electric vehicle anytime soon, but you might get a Tesla electric battery in your data center.
The company recently announced—and sold out of—its electrical storage batteries, which are called “stationary storage,” as opposed to the “automotive” devices in the electric cars. Storage has been the biggest bottleneck to more efficient and sustainable energy generation.
“[Tesla CEO Elon] Musk’s pitch to potential battery buyers is simple,” writes Thomas Plaburn in InformationWeek. “‘The issue with existing batteries is they suck,’ he said. ‘They’re really horrible.’”
While much of the focus has been on the Powerwall, the device intended for use in homes, there’s also the Powerpack, a $250 per kilowatt-hour version intended for industry that is being tested in businesses such as Target, Wal-mart, and Amazon Web Services. Amazon, which committed last fall to using 100 percent renewable energy, is testing a 4.8 megawatt Tesla pilot, according to Jason Verge in Data Center Knowledge.
There are two versions of the Powerpack, based on different components. One is intended for daily use—that is, an organization would use it to store energy from solar or wind power for later use. The other is intended more as a battery backup for use during emergencies, known as the Power backup version, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained on the company’s recent earnings call.
The daily cycling battery is expected to last about 5,000 cycles, while the deep cycling battery is expected to last about 1,000 cycles, he said.
Don’t like Tesla’s products but interested in the technology? Just wait.
“Tesla Energy is going the same route as Tesla Motors with regard to an open patent policy, which gives competitors access to the company’s patents without fear of litigation,” writes Brian Rubin in ReadWrite. “In short, if you don’t like what Tesla’s doing with Powerwall, it might not be too long before another company comes along and offers the same kind of tech for less.”
Here are some examples of why you might consider using a Powerpack in your data center:
- If your organization already has solar or wind power, or other types of renewable energy, or is interested in using it. The battery could be used to store energy until it’s needed, and to deal with periods when the sun isn’t shining (like, night) and the wind isn’t blowing.
- If your organization is, or could be located in, remote areas, where there isn’t a power infrastructure. (In fact, Musk describes his energy strategy as similar to how cellphones took over from landlines.)
- If it’s challenging to get diesel fuel to your location in the event of a power failure.
- If your organization is big enough, or willing to partner with other organizations, to develop “microgrids” of locally produced power independent from utility companies. Several states, such as New York, are working on such systems in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, writes Megan Geuss in Ars Technica.
- If your utility company is willing to offer your company incentives to go off the grid during peak periods—or, conversely, if it charges more to use energy during peak periods.
While power companies might not be thrilled at the notion that some of their biggest customers suddenly buy power when it’s cheap and not when it’s expensive, the ability to limit peak loads helps reduce power company costs, both on operating the power plant and its various energy sources, and in being able to build smaller power plants in the future. Tesla Energy is working with several utility companies, such as Southern California Edison, to enable them to store energy for use during peak periods.
One Tesla Energy customer, Jackson Family Wines vineyard, works with Pacific Gas & Electric to voluntarily shut down its cooling, lighting, compressed air, and water treatment systems for two to six hours in exchange for financial incentives, Geuss writes. Earlier this year, the vineyard received 21 power packs from Tesla, which it is currently using for power-intensive tasks. Eventually, they will automate the peak load system, she writes.
The downside is, it’s not like you can run out and buy Powerpacks today. The company had reservations for 2,500 Powerpacks, Musk said on the earnings call, adding that the company was basically sold out through the middle of next year—in the first week.
In addition, the company is prioritizing building batteries for the cars, as opposed to stationary storage, though it expects to increase capacity when it opens a new $5 billion factory in Reno next year.
But when you’re doing the next revision of your disaster recovery plan, it’s at least worth looking into as a backup power option. It may be the closest to a Tesla you’ll ever get.
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