by Jerry Mooney
I confess, I get overwhelmed when considering the real changes needed on our planet. There are so many greedy, neanderthals running the world that I lose sight of all of the amazing, inspirational stories out there. I guess if it bleeds it leads can get to me. In a total accident, I began learning more about Elon Musk which sent me down an inspirational thread of the exciting innovations that are in development but not well publicized.
How did I get on the Elon Musk track? Apparently, a couple of reporters got busted trespassing at Tesla’s Gigafactory, they assaulted security and it became a headline. Curious, I took a peek at why this was a story. What was revealed was much more important: There’s a friggin’ Gigafactory! Well, at least one is being built. So, the obvious question for me became, what’s a Gigafactory? What I learned filled me with hope for humanity.
First, the Gigafactory is, as its name would suggest, a factory, that will begin producing lithium batteries in 2017. So what? Well, these batteries will help fuel the mass production of electric cars that Tesla intends on creating beginning in 2016. They project 500,000 cars will be made and sold in their first year of mass production. Foreseeing a need, the progressive car company initiated the creation of its own battery factory, which, when finished will produce more batteries than all other lithium factories currently produce worldwide.
Pretty cool, huh? Well, my cynical overly-influenced-by-bad-news mind began to criticize. Electricity comes from coal, and dams. My moment of sunshine was darkened by these thoughts. But I kept learning and discovered that things were sunnier that I had thought. Literally! Tesla doesn’t just produce cars and the batteries for those cars, but they have developed new-technology batteries called Powerwalls.
Powerwalls do some amazing things. First of all, by installing them in your home they can smartly charge at off-peak times when grid electricity is cheaper. By itself, that is a pretty cool feature. Charge the battery at three AM when power is about a third of the cost of peak hours, then use the battery during peak time. Boom, power bill cut while the demands on the grid are reduced.
But that’s not all. Solar power has often been dismissed as not a truly viable option. It was hard to make solar worthwhile because it didn’t function at night. Sure, solar could power your house during the day, but in the evening, after the sun goes down and when energy is most needed, you would normally be, again, reliant on the grid. If you have a Powerwall, however, you can store solar energy during the light of the day and use it in the dark.
Not only could you power your home with these modular and expandable batteries, they make it possible to charge your electric car with solar as well. Learning that it is not only possible, but the ability to power my house and car with the sun is available made my heart smile.
Now, I know there will be opposition. The Koch brothers are probably plotting Musk’s assassination as we speak. Tesla had to sue New Jersey because Governor Christie made it illegal in New Jersey for Teslas to sell under their current distribution model. Although Musk’s lawsuits have been successful so far, there is headwind. Arizona, Texas have also banned Tesla’s sales model and Ohio has pending laws that follow suit.
Here is the thing, not only is Tesla gaining public support, because people want electric cars, smart home batteries and solar solutions, but businesses want in too. The Powerwall is completely scalable and offers, larger, Lego type blocks that are designed for big business needs. When businesses get behind a product that will save them money and give them more independence, then taking on the titans becomes a more realistic goal. They don’t even need to be socially conscious, merely wanting to save money and improve reliability.
As I learned more and more about Tesla I discovered that the Character Tony Stark in the movie Iron Man was based on Elon Musk. It is good to know that there are real life superheroes out there, fighting for a better world. Now, maybe, my mind can be more hopeful as I observe the potentially overwhelming world.