Panasonic Energy President Naoto Noguchi Gives Tesla CTO JB Straubel One Of The First 18650 Lithium-ion Cells At Panasonic's Suminoe Factory In April Of 2010
While not officially joined at the hip, both Tesla and Solar City are backed by Elon Musk. And as Mr. Musk is the Chairman to his cousin's CEO position at Solar City, and is CEO at Tesla Motors, the two companies very tight partners.
With the recent announcement of Tesla's $5 billion dollar "Giga factory," that partnership has once again taken center stage as batteries, and storage technology play a big roll in any renewable grid model.
JB Straubel Does A Little "Walk And Talk" In This IDG Interview Last Year
Recently EnergyBiz interviewed JB Straubel, who is the Chief Technology Officer at Tesla (and also a co-founder of the company himself) to see how the two companies will work together; and what the ultimate goal is.
Mr. Straubel says Tesla has already been working on their fixed energy storage business for some time by "developing and refining storage products" and that Solar City is going to assist them in not only marketing these products, but installing them.
"We see a huge opportunity to further enable renewable energy and efficient demand management for buildings and houses.
With SolarCity, we see an opportunity to partner with a great company to help us with sales and distribution for some of these products. They have an excellent understanding of the customers’ needs, the products’ needs and the installation complexities."
Tesla first looks to assist businesses in relief from demand charges before tackling larger grid issues. EnergyBiz asks Mr. Straubel for a practical example of this...short of having a few Teslas automobiles in their parking lot.
"The vehicle isn’t needed for this. It’s a very special thing. It’s a stationary product that connects with the building. Utility customers profit from it based on a direct reduction in their utility bills. Control software inside the product lets it charge and discharge at the right time of day so users get a lower demand charge on their electric bills."
Tesla CEO Elon Musk And CTO JB Strubel At A Recent Conference In Amesterdam (via Tesla Club Belgium)
Tesla says it has hundreds of engineers working on storage products and that their battery density gives them an advantage over would be competitors, and the new factory will allow Tesla to make that "product for a lower cost."
As for the future, Straubel says a case can be made for a 100% renewable grid now, but the reality is it is still quite a long way off.
"We are surprisingly close to reaching an economic point that would make reliance on a 100 percent renewable grid compelling or, at least, cheaper. It will take a long time to change out the infrastructure, replacing, upgrading and retiring old assets. The first thing that will happen is the cost will cross the economic threshold where it is cheaper to install renewables and storage than to install new fossil-fuel generation. That’s already happening in island grids and in island nations. That’s where 100 percent renewable grids will happen first. We are a few tens of years away from seeing a major shift and the adoption of storage sufficient to drive renewables higher"
Check out the whole interview at EnergyBiz