Five Ways Telsa's GigaFactory Is Likely to Impact the Grid

Katie Fehrenbacher considers the potential impact of the electric car maker's gigawatt battery plant: what it can and cannot do for power grid.

Published: 05-Mar-2014

Since Tesla confirmed last month that it plans to build a massive battery factory in the U.S., there’s been exuberant speculation that the electric car maker will disrupt not just the auto industry, but also the global market for power grid energy storage (the key to solar and wind). But, as is usually the case, the real story is far more nuanced and complex.

It’s true that Tesla plans to sell some batteries for stationary grid applications, and it’s been working on a product with solar company SolarCity for awhile (I first reported this in the spring of 2012). The grid storage market is in its infancy. And Tesla’s battery plans could have a meaningful impact on the market for pairing batteries with solar panels — particularly given the sheer size of Tesla’s factory and the fact that it is supposed to lower battery costs by 30 percent.

But the grid energy storage market is nuanced. All batteries and technologies are not created equal when it comes to batteries being used for the power grid, and there will be different types of batteries for different power grid applications. Lithium ion batteries are some of the most expensive out there. And remember, the cost estimates that Tesla wants to hit three years from now are just that — estimates.

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