Why is the Domestic Battery so Important?
Friday, May 1, 2015 at 11:11AM
Robert Llewellyn

Earlier this year I saw an all in one inverter and domestic battery unit on display at the Bosch stand at CES.

2 years ago I stayed with my friend Simon Hackett in Adelaide, Australia and saw his line up of domestic batteries in sturdy cabinets outside his home. Simon's house is covered in solar panels, he makes more electricity than he can use and he runs three electric cars from this power source.

Yesterday Tesla announced its domestic battery range.

So, is this yet further ‘playthings for the rich’ as so many suggest to me on the Twitters?

What role can a domestic battery have for the ordinary Joe/Joanne?

With the advent of ever cheaper and more effective lithium ion battery technology, something government supported scientists have been working on for the last 40 years, a new paradigm is beginning to emerge.

On a personal level, if you have a few solar panels and a battery in your home, this doesn’t mean you can ‘live off the grid’ but it does mean you can reduce your electricity bill by a much larger amount that you can at the moment. You can obviously store the electricity coming from your panels during the day when you are not home and use it in the evening when you return.

But that really isn’t the story.

If a thousand homes had solar panels and domestic batteries fitted, it wouldn’t make any difference to the national picture.

Those homeowners would benefit from greatly reduced bills and maybe feel smug, but that’s about it.

If ten thousand houses had them, it might be possible to register the reduction in peak demand at the National Grid control room I visited for a Fully Charged episode.

If a million homes had them, solar panels or not, it would make a very profound difference.

If 10 million homes had them, well, everything would change.

But why?

This is a graph of the daily demand in the UK over 1 week.

As you can see it is not a steady line, it veers up and down as demand increases and decreases, imagine reducing that peak demand by half. At 5 to 6 pm in the evening take ten million homes off that demand peak and what does that mean?
It means we need less power generation, much less. Whole power stations less.

Running the national grid would be much cheaper, the demand spikes would be reduced. The ‘bath tub effect’ overnight would smooth out. 10 million batteries would be charging at night using mainly wind and a bit of nuclear.

We could, some claim, stop burning coal.

We could also continue with our current energy consumption, no one would notice anything on a day to day.

We wouldn’t need to spend billions building a new nuclear power station with all the resulting increases in cost for all of us, not to mention the massive bill we will be leaving our grandchildren to ‘make it safe’ in 50 or 60 years time.

We would also be able to utilise the ever-growing supply of renewable energy in a far more effective way.

We would, as consumers, be in a position to challenge the ‘big six’ energy companies to change their policies. Their profits would take a right hammering which of course they won’t be happy about, the existing energy matrix (or stranglehold, depending on your view) would change dramatically.

We could actually choose when we took power from the grid and clearly people are going to choose the cheapest time, the time when the least carbon is released and we use the most of our own energy generation.

Now, add to this the steady increase in community owned renewable energy systems springing up all over the country and you are looking at a widely distributed, community owned energy infrastructure which will alter the entire countries bank balance. It will make us far more energy independent, less at the mercy of the likes of lovely President Putin and the delightfully liberal Saudi regime.

It will also mean much cheaper electricity, and, when the electric car becomes normal much cheaper travel.

This isn’t a sci-fi pipe dream, it’s happening right now.

The changes are, I would suggest, going to be disruptive and controversial. There will be powerful lobbies that will try and hold this technology back and maintain the status quo.

However history has shown us that when a better technology arrives, regardless of the resistance of the old guard, the technology is rapidly adopted.

VHS tapes anyone?

The arguments about the cost of batteries, the environmental impact and the ‘short life’ have already withered on the vine.

10 years ago, a battery like the one Tesla has just announced would have cost over $25,000.

The Tesla indoor or outdoor unit costs just over $3,000 and they will rapidly get cheaper.

I haven’t dared say it before but I’ve known it for a long time. It’s taken 150 years, it’s been a slow development but now it’s reached a historic tipping point.

The battery will change the world.

 

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