Tesla continues their busy year with the announcement of three new products last week. There were releases for the second generation of their powerwall and powerpack energy storage systems, in addition to the long awaited debut of their pioneering solar roof – an energy producing glass roof tile set to revolutionize home solar installations.
In August, Tesla CEO Elon Musk proposed the acquisition of another of his companies, SolarCity, by Tesla, and just a couple of weeks ago Tesla announced a partnership with Panasonic on PV solar production. Tesla also achieved their first profitable quarter in Q2 this year, and followed it up with another profitable quarter in Q3 last week, now these product releases are adding to what is already a landmark year for the company.
The Powerwall 2 is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to enable self-consumption of solar power, emergency backup, load shifting and other grid service applications. It builds on the relative success of the original Powerwall, which was released in May 2015.
Powerwall 2 consists of a 14 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system, an integrated inverter and software that intelligently dispatches electricity whenever it is needed. Like the original Powerwall, the elegant unit mounts on a wall or sits on the ground, indoors or outdoors, and integrates with the grid to allow excess electricity to be sold, maximizing the consumer’s opportunity for economic benefit.
The energy capacity for Powerwall 2 is twice that of its predecessor and leaves its competitors, who are still trying to match the Powerwall 1, in the dust. LG’s Chem RESU battery, for example, is less than half that of the Powerwall 2 at 6.5 kWh, while sonnenBatterie’s eco offers just 4 kWh and is more expensive. LG’s Chem RESU unit may be $1500 cheaper than the Powerwall 2 at $4000 but doesn’t include an inverter, which would cost in the region of $2000.
Competition is always good for an industry, especially an industry seeking mass-market penetration for the benefit of the sector and the environment. However, when you compare the crucial cost per kWh statistics; sonnenBatterie’s eco provides $1488 per kWh, LG’s Chem RESU is better at $923 per kWh, but neither come close to Tesla’s Powerwall 2 at $393 per kWh. All three “competing” batteries are set to be launched simultaneously in Q4.
This undoubtedly leaves homeowners with a very easy energy storage buying decision, and competitors with a lot to do. In fact the specifications suggest that Tesla’s competition, at least in the US market, is more than a generation behind. We know from the smartphone industry that this kind of imbalance can lead to a very lop-sided market, although there is always a way back with a good product and or good marketing.
Alongside the Powerwall 2, Tesla also announced its second-generation Powerpack system. The Powerpack 2 delivers broad application compatibility and streamlined installation for businesses and utilities by integrating batteries, power electronics, thermal management and controls into a turnkey solution.
The Powerpack 2 already began shipping to customers in September this year. It features a new energy module and power electronics, providing twice the energy density of the previous Powerpack, and better integration into multiple levels of the grid. The system also includes a new utility-scale, low-cost, high-efficiency, high power density inverter, designed by Tesla and manufactured at its Gigafactory.
Using its new inverter Tesla has significantly simplified the installation process of the entire Powerpack system. Up to 20 Powerpacks can be connected per Tesla inverter and systems can easily accommodate multiple inverters, enabling flexible system sizing and design. With systems scalable from 200 kWh to 100+ MWh, the Powerpack 2 appears to set the new standard for commercial and utility scale battery solutions.
Elon Musk’s third Tesla product announcement last week was for the highly anticipated Solar Roof, designed in collaboration with sister company SolarCity. Their goal “was to create the most beautiful and efficient roof ever – one that would make homes look better while reducing the cost of electricity.”
The Solar Roof consists of glass tiles which can each be embedded with high-efficiency photovoltaic cells. Tiles are “infinitely customizable for a variety of different home styles, each uniquely engineered so that the photovoltaic cells are invisible” the company states.
Solar Roof customers can even choose which sections of their roof will contain the hidden solar technology while retaining the same look across the entire roof. While the look may add to the appeal, their main purpose is to supply renewable energy to homes, battery storage systems and back into the grid creating good economics for owners. Together with the Powerwall, Tesla claims “the solar roof can power an entire home with 100% renewable energy.”
It remains to be seen how big a market has refrained from installing solar panels for aesthetic reasons, and how many will want to swap their solar panels for a Solar Roof. However, this innovative product is likely to have a significant impact on a market that has the potential to include the majority of houses in the US and beyond.
Considering the highly expected popularity of Tesla’s energy storage products, if combined with an attractive package deal for a Solar Roof, or SolarCity solar panels, would likely be enough to see Tesla become the clear market leader in home solar + battery installations. All in all, 2016 will go down as a banner year for Tesla, a progressive year for the solar + storage sector, and a worrying year for Elon Musk’s main energy competitors.