Tesla To Power Wal-Mart?

APR 24 2015 BY TDILLARD 11

In a story dated April 22nd, Bloomberg headlined “Tesla Wants to Power Wal-Mart”.  Of course, this got picked up by just about every “mainstream” news source, because…  why?  Oh right – next week, as we reported, Tesla’s got a big unveil of it’s Home/Utility Battery product.  And they had to headline with something.

The Bloomberg piece reads like a series of tweets with a little embellishment – and may well be, but it does cover a lot of the salient points however superficially, and everyone’s acting like Wal-Mart is breaking news.  Solar City, in conjunction with Tesla, started a pilot program with Wal-Mart in 2010 and expanded the program in 2012, with Tesla-branded storage.  Granted, this “news” may be simply confirming that the pilot period is over, and the real program and agreements will begin.

The fact is, this has been percolating for quite some time now.  We’re anticipating a more sophisticated, more integrated, “smarter” system than we’ve seen before, with slick packaging (with self-actuating handles, perhaps?), from Musk’s comments back in February of this year:

“We are trying to figure out what would be a cool stationary pack,” Musk said. “Some will be like the Model S pack: something flat, 5 inches off the wall, wall-mounted, with a beautiful cover, an integrated bi-directional inverter, and plug and play.” 

Solar City at Wal-Mart

Solar City at Wal-Mart

A story in the San Francisco Business Journal speculates that Tesla is “bullish on storage” because of $65 million in rebates, a stock boost and the solar connection with Solar City (which, on Earth Day announced a new, $1 billion fund for commercial solar projects – 300 megawatts of energy over the next two years).  On the Solar City press page, you can read all about the Solar City/Wal-Mart projects here, dated last November.

One of the more interesting stories spinning off of the Bloomberg piece is from the LA Times, where we’re reminded that in December, this plan was outlined by Mateo Jaramillo, Director of Powertrain Business Development at Tesla.  From that story:

In December, the PUC held a workshop to craft energy storage and interconnection rules. One of the panelists was Mateo Jaramillo, director of powertrain business development at Tesla Motors. Another was Ryan Hanley, director of grid engineering solutions at SolarCity.

During the presentation Jaramillo outlined several Tesla pilot projects for using grid-connected batteries to store electricity.

He discussed the differing requirements among major utilities for telemetry requirements — the way large battery storage systems communicate with the grid to prevent power surges and gaps — and suggested low-cost options.

Baumhefner said, “Tesla is looking to get into energy storage whether it is on four wheels or stationary.”

Storage, as we know, has a huge potential – from a 2013 $4.3 billion to an estimated $19.9 billion in 2020, according to Navigant Research.  The LA Times story points out that BMW sees potential in storage as well, with pilot programs in California.

Of course, we all know that this Solar City storage thing started back in 2010 with a grant for $1.7 million in conjunction with Tesla and UC Berkley:

Battery sectors (via Tesla)

Solar City home battery products (via Solar City)

SolarCity, a national leader in solar financing, design, installation, monitoring and related services, today announced it will receive $800,000 as part of a grant in the second round of funding by from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Research Development, Deployment and Demonstration (CSI RD&D) Program. SolarCity is teaming with Tesla Motors and the University of California, Berkeley, which will receive an additional $900,000, to research advanced grid-interactive distributed photovoltaic (PV) and storage.

…and lest we forget, the Motley Fool points out that, unlike Tesla, SpaceX and just about everything else Musk has put his hand to, this isn’t a market that’s devoid of some major competition.  GE, worth some $270 billion, has been playing in this arena for a while now, and isn’t rolling over to the upstart car company any time soon:

…last week, GE announced a reentry into energy storage: It plans to supply utility Consolidated Edison’s subsidiary, Con Edison Development, with an 8 MWh battery energy storage system in Central Valley, California. While an energy announcement like this would be news in and of itself, it seems that General Electric’s latest move will put it in direct competition with Tesla Motors Inc: This will be GE’s first foray into lithium-ion batteries.

For Consolidated Edison, it’s easy enough to understand why General Electric Company would be a natural partner. “We have a history of working with GE in thermal and wind, and we are pleased to continue our long-standing collaboration into the evolving world of energy storage,” said Mark Noyes, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Con Edison Development, in a statement. “GE brings a strong technical solution, along with performance guarantees.”

Read the GE press release here.

While that’s a microscopic effort compared to Tesla (the Fool reckons ” this GE system will equate to just 0.002% of Tesla’s annual production”), Tesla has to be feeling like they’re tossing rocks at the lions, (from inside the cage) to some degree.  Of course, with his SpaceX handling of NASA and Boeing as reference, we’re thinking this might be just where Musk wants to be. As the Fool sagely advises, the storage war has just started:

The current energy storage market is worth a tiny $130 million, but analysts expect this business to boom to $1.5 billion by 2019. That’s almost half of Tesla Motors Inc’s 2014 revenue and a not-insignificant 1% of giant General Electric’s. This latest news sets into motion what we’ve known all along: The energy storage war is from over, and investors will need to watch closely as the battery battles heat up.

Read all about GE Energy Storage, using the Durathon battery system, GE’s first foray into lithium storage, here, on their site.

GE Energy Storage microgrid

GE Energy Storage microgrid

…and before you jump to “…but no solar”, take a look at the whole site.  Solar, wind, storage, residential, telecom, commercial…  even mention of EV charging.

“GE is committed to the energy storage business,” said Jeff Wyatt, general manager of GE’s solar and energy storage units. “Our goal is to help our customers provide flexibility across the grid by combining our expertise in plant controls, power electronics, systems engineering, and fundamental battery knowledge. The recent addition of lithium ion technology complements our Durathon battery offering and gives customers more flexibility in meeting their specific site application needs.”

It’s going to be an interesting year.  Heck.  It’s going to be an interesting week.  But it ain’t about Wal-Mart.  And as far as the Market liking this news…  ya think?

Tesla stock jumps $20 in a day

Tesla stock jumps $20 in a day.  Source: Yahoo Finance

Categories: Tesla


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11 Comments on "Tesla To Power Wal-Mart?"

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So, GE is moving into the battery pack energy storage field? I guess that’s another sign that prices have finally come down on batteries sufficiently to begin entry into the mass storage market.

@Ted Dillard:

Thank you for your survey of media coverage of Tesla’s home energy storage system. However, regarding your complaints about Bloomberg’s hyped click-bait headline: One doesn’t have to look far on InsideEVs to see similar click-bait headlines. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Indeed, technology is already ready for 100 % renewables, at least in latitudes where solar power is abundant around the year, but it is just people’s attitudes and prejudices that prevent the rapid expansions of rooftop-solar + storage.

Good thing is that transition to 100 % renwables will be extremely rapid because by 2025 all baseload utilies have been driven into bankruptcy. And as we need power to run factories, we need to have 100 % renwable power by 2030. And as this explosive growth of storage technology drives down the cost of batteries, also transportation will see very fast electrification.

You really think 100% electricity generation from renewables by 2030, world-wide, is realistic? Really?

I think these US .gov estimates are more likely:

The current renewable % is 14% in the US, 22% worldwide

Which isn’t bad at all, but not all methods can grow — hydro is maxed out in many places, or objected to due to environmental concerns (effect on wildlife) or agricultural ones.

Biofuels aren’t completely clean either, and compete with food stocks… realistically they’re limited to stuff like recycling cooking oil and methane from garbage dumps.

Sites like InsideEVs and renewable-energy sites tend to focus on the developed world. Things are a lot less rosy in the developing world, which is expanding economic activity and energy usage rapidly, and most of it not in a renewable way… Brazil, India etc.

@Ted Dillard
Please write a piece about what companies actually have the capacity to take a bite at this market.
Here is one chart:

Who makes the batteries for GE?

Thanks for that link, Daniel!
Very interesting. InsideEVs has mentioned BYD wanting to greatly increase capacity recently, but until I saw it on a graph I didn’t realize they were #4. Since they’re a vehicle producer, that puts them in a strong position w.r.t. vertical integration.
(IIRC, this isn’t the case with Mitsu/GS Yuasa, which is a joint venture).

“…unlike Tesla…and just about everything else Musk has put his hand to, this isn’t a market that’s devoid of some major competition.”

There’s no major competition for Tesla??

I suppose they mean no other high performance, pure electric cars but beyond just electric Tesla competes with some of the largest companies in the world.

Seems funny that Walmart, home of the nation’s WORST grocery store according to Consumer Reports, would be interested in anything other than to reduce their expenses, which is what strategically located batteries in some of their stores would admittedly accomplish. The Walmarts around me barely have adequate emergency lighting, let alone anything else, not even an emergency generator as most other stores around here have – the Lowes having a big enough one to easily power the entire store, air conditioning included. At Walmart, the data cabinets are suspended in mid air to keep the employees from playing with them, and the entire feeling of a Walmart is like one of those big self-service public storage lockers that families seriously down on their luck live in.

Now clothing Store Kohl’s has done plenty of things of interest to EV buyers… Many stores having dual 30 amp 200 volt chargePoints in the parking lot, 200 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof, and a general commitment to Green enterprise.

So Kohl’s yes, but Walmart?

Just from looking at the photograph, it seems that Tesla has made a commitment to buy PV inverters from Schneider Electric, and it would be interesting to see if Tesla starts using their EVSE’s, that is, should Tesla heaven forbid ever use any industry standard connector like J1772.

Which would be doubly ironic since my Schneider ELectric EVSE isn’t compatible with my Tesla Roadster as purchased out of the box, but they claim it is now in their advertising.

GREAT context, Ted, thanks!

>LG Chem, Eguana partner for home energy storage


Why does this story remind me of this piece?


Those clever Dutch developed windmills to pump the ocean out of the lowlands they created mining peat for fuel.