Tesla has shocked the world with unbelievable speed and efficiency by providing a huge solution to the ongoing issue of the “duck curve”.
The “duck curve” refers to a complication that arises when reliance is placed on solar power. It means that solar panels produce more energy than is needed during daylight hours, and standby power is then needed in the evening when the demand is high and the sun has already set. The commonly used solution to this is to turn on natural gas “peaker” plants, which produce power during those evening hours. However, there have been huge issues in Southern California where a natural gas leak turned into an “epic ecological disaster“, which led to an urgent search for alternative solutions.
CREDIT: If it looks like a duck … (Photo: California ISO)
A few years ago, an alternative was thought up which involved giant batteries that Elon Musk promised he would make in his new Nevada factory. Tesla has since stunned the public by producing a giant battery farm with 396 stacks of batteries, which have the energy to provide the electricity needed to power 15,000 houses for four hours, all of which Tesla built in an astonishing three months.
The New York Times commented on the shocking speed of this going from a paper idea to a usable energy source. Michael J. Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said, “I had relatively limited expectations for the battery industry in advance of 2020. I thought that it would not really accelerate and begin to penetrate the electric grid or the transportation world for a while to come. Once again, technology is clearly moving faster than we can regulate”.
The new battery packs are much simpler and smaller than the natural gas peaker plants, which are expensive and are often seen as controversial. According to Tesla Chief Technology Officer, J.B. Straubel, in Bloomberg, “There were teams working out there 24 hours a day, living in construction trailers and doing the commissioning work at two in the morning. It feels like the kind of pace that we need to change the world.”
Despite this, some have questioned the new batteries, including MIT Technology Review’s Jamie Condliffe, who highlights the fact that lithium batteries are expensive and that they degrade. Although, other lithium-ion batteries have thousands of cycles in their systems before they reach the end of their life, which is likely to be the same for Tesla’s new invention. Together with this, others have also hinted at the idea that the battery prices will drop, and their technology will also keep getting better. All of which are combined factors that produce a new and innovative energy source that is a lot safer and more reliable than the initial natural gas peaker plants that were previously relied on.