Tony Stark has nothing on Elon Musk.
Ever since Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, unveiled the iPhone in 2007, we've had CEO after CEO of almost every major company in almost every major industry, take to the stage trying to convince us that their newest product will revolutionize the world. Now, I love watching companies give their keynote speeches when they're unveiling new products, and I've seen so many of these keynotes. The thing is that ultimately, when you boil it all down, Steve Jobs, and every other CEO after him, have been trying to sell you a better smartphone, car, or augmented reality. When Elon Musk took to the stage last night, he was selling us something else - a better future, and I've never been more excited.
Basically, Elon Musk wants to sell you a battery, and he doesn't particularly care whether or not you own one of his Tesla auto mobiles. What's interesting is that while there are plenty of ideas on how we can cut down our dependence on fossil fuels and save the world, Musk's is genuinely interesting, and seemingly viable. I mean, REALLY viable.
In a brief, 20 minute keynote, he outlined what he wants to do with Tesla Energy. For $3,000/$3,500 USD, you can buy either a 7kWh or 10kWh 220 pound battery that sits on a wall in your garage (or wherever. That part is up to you entirely). The battery would then plug into a series of sensors, ideally SolarCity's solar panels, allowing you to then store any excess energy produced in case you need it.
Currently, most cities partner with solar panel providers, and users of those panels. Any extra energy produced isn't being stored, but is rather re-directed back into the overall grid to help even out the distribution. With that, you get some money back and can deduct the overall expense from your taxes. However, that really only works when the sun is out. At night time, especially during the hotter months such as August, when everyone has the A/C on, you're right back to square one - drawing your power from the grid.
With these new batteries, you can store any excess power generated from the solar panels, meaning you could effectively remove yourself from the grid altogether. This route, however, isn't entirely practical, since the average household uses 30kWh a day. Depending on how much solar energy you're able to generate, it's still better than nothing.
Businesses can order an even larger 100kWh battery pack that's roughly the size of a refrigerator, meaning that if there ever is a power outage, they have enough in their reserves to keep chugging along.
Think of it this way. In 14 and a half seconds, the sun provides as much energy to Earth as humanity uses in a day. In 88 minutes, the sun produces 470 exajoules of energy, as much energy all of humanity consumes in a year. In 112 hours, or a little under five days, it provides 36 zettajoules of energy, or, as much power contained in all of earth's oil, gas, and coal reserves. Combined. The numbers are actually staggering, and makes you wonder why we haven't moved in this direction sooner.
That's not even the coolest part about this whole thing though. Musk, through Tesla Energy, has made it so that the battery packs can scale up infinitely. Basically, you could daisychain as many of these batteries together. He estimates that you'd need about 161 million of these to power all of the United States. Forever. And to power the entire planet? A little over 2 billion. And these batteries can connect to even more wind and solar arrays, drawing and storing as much power as they can handle, which if you think about it, is really cool.
Those numbers seem a tad far-fetched, but when you think about the fact that there are currently approximately 2 billion cars and trucks on the road today, it suddenly becomes realistic.
I'm not sure if Elon Musk will succeed, but given his track record with Tesla and SpaceX, I'm extremely hopeful. Musk, and Tesla Energy, might not have kill our reliance on fossil fuels, but 2¢ per kWh will change the world. He is putting his money where is mouth is when he talks about positively changing the world, and if there was anyone who could pull something like this off, it's him.
If you're not convinced by my enthusiasm, watch Elon Musk's speech here: