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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tesla Buying SolarCity Advances Civilization Along The Kardashev Scale

Back in 2014, we wrote that Tesla and SolarCity are a natural fit. One is a clean electricity producer, the other uses energy to get us where we'd like to go. And all the better that the energy should come from a renewable source.

That same energy storage technology that moves Tesla's cars can be used to store energy for the grid. Tesla's Gigafactory promises to make these batteries more affordably than they have ever been before. Energy storage would allow energy to be tapped at a moment's notice, without waiting for generators to spin up. Affordable grid-level energy storage is what's needed to bring energy from the analog era into the digital era.

Affordable industrial-scale batteries will make energy "digital".

Large-scale energy storage will be a massive disruption. It will change how we produce and use energy. You might say, "So what? As long as I can flip a switch and turn on the lights, what does it matter?"

When energy can be stored, it becomes orders of magnitude more scalable. The grid that we have today is an engineering marvel. It, however, depends on a real-time match of supply and demand. This requires spinning reserves and peaker plants... This real-time match requirement is a significant constraint on the grid. Removing this constraint allows for new grid architectures, better reliability, and levels of innovation in energy that we haven't seen since Edison and Tesla fought the War of the Currents.

Briefly, one variant of the Kardashev Scale measures a civilization's level of technological advancement based on the amount of energy a civilization is able to utilize. Humankind's command of energy has moved from fire, to gunpowder, dynamite, whale oil, to fossil fuels and nuclear; and now we are on the cusp of becoming a renewably powered civilization.

The combination of Tesla and SolarCity moves civilization one small step along the Kardashev Scale.

Imagine batteries that are charged by solar during the day and then discharged at night. When the morning sun comes up, any surplus energy left in the batteries is transferred west, to run from the rising sun and power regions that are still in the dark. With energy storage, it is possible to move energy around where and when it is needed: vehicle to grid, storage to home, storage to vehicle, peer-to-peer energy exchange... there are new uses cases waiting to be discovered.

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