Does Community Solar Scale? We have asked ourselves the same question, and it’s a good one. Why would you want to throw time and resources at a financial model for clean energy...
The Powerwall Changes Everything
Not because of the price tag, though that helps. And not because it wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of a London nightclub, though that helps too. But because it shows that in just several short years of taking a technical innovation challenge seriously, not only can those challenges be solved, they can be blown out of the park.
The $3500 (US) for 10kWh price tag, is so far beyond anything like it on the market, there has already been a sceptical reaction. Are some essentials not included in the base price? With a recommended weekly cycling regime, the 10kWh battery has clearly taken some performance short cuts to achieve the price.
But $3000 (US) for 7kWh, with daily cycling. Now that is truly remarkable. If each cycle was to take excess solar power from the home (otherwise sold at 6c/kWh) and offset peak power (say 30c/kWh), the battery pack is worth more than $5,000 ($AUS) over ten years. However the real value is avoiding more than energy costs.
Just about any Victorian home using gas for space heating and hot water, or any half-decent home in one of Australia’s many sub-tropical-tropical climates, can now be off grid for not much more than $15,000 with 5kW solar and 14kWh of storage. Drawing down your mortgage to pay for it would add about $1100 a year at today’s interest rates.
Certainly any new home being designed today, should have off grid energy supply firmly in sight. A home using 5000kWh a year, probably pays their network company at least $750 a year in usage and connection charges - that pays the debt on about $10,000 from the bank. So why wouldn't you put that into batteries instead of the grid for backup?
It should now be clear that for large tracts of Australia, and for the vast majority of residential customers, the grid has virtually no value. Who will be holding them when the music stops? It should not have come to this, but soon the only reason a customer would want the grid for backup, is if it were free. Seems an overstatement?
If this is what Tesla energy has on the market in 2015, do we dare imagine what is possible in 2020? Remember just five years ago, solar power was a country mile from competing with retail power prices, and the only electric car in sight couldn’t crack 80kmh, or a 60km range. Ok, I’m making that bit up. But you can see the point. The innovation trajectory is getting steeper.
The Australian energy market is most certainly not ready for this. It is one thing to have standards in place and consumer buying guides. It is another thing altogether to have asset values vaporise quicker than you can say “was that a tesla?” No, we are absolutely not prepared for this revolution in Australia. We consistently take a static view of innovation, as though being innovative is a moment in time that will stop tomorrow. Well tomorrow has arrived, and the innovation has only just begun.