The solar singularity: 5 ways new technology is devouring the old

#1 Batteries and Tesla

Batteries are the best solution today for helping to make energy from wind and solar more reliable.    The challenge is that battery technology hasn’t moved as fast as we’d like it to.  That’s why your iPhone 6 runs out of charge a lot faster than your Nokia 6230.

As we often see in technology, solutions are coming from what would have been formerly seen as another problem space.  The work going on at Tesla’s "Gigafactories" to build better batteries for electric cars are what could solve the home energy storage issue.  A report last year from Morgan Stanley reinforces that idea by citing information around the Gigafactories which will produce large quantities of the Li-ion batteries required for future Tesla cars, and potentially your house. Gigafactories are a joint venture between Tesla and Panasonic, with Panasonic making the batteries and Tesla creating the governing electronics.     Just one Tesla Model S (85 kWh) can store enough energy to power the average US household for 3.5 days. 

Just one Tesla Model S (85 kWh) can store enough energy to power the average US household for 3.5 days

The early days of worry about Tesla range anxiety are coming to a close.  The new Tesla model now gets 300 miles on a full charge.  The ways we will charge cars will also most certainly evolve.  A concept coming out of South Korea enables cars to be recharged wirelessly while stopped at a traffic light.  A magnetic field charges the vehicles and its already working for a few passenger buses.  Volvo is putting a similar model in place in Sweden.  

The Tesla Roadster doesn't just look cool, it will keep your lights on. Credit: Wikimedia

Tesla isn’t the only player in town though.  Enphase is moving beyond creating inverters and into the battery space as it sees the energy storage market as likely to be worth “tens of billion dollars in the next five to 10 years”.  This kind of technology is what gives Australian developers the confidence to build new housing estates directly off the grid.  The underlying technology improvements are starting to happen.  Researchers at Nanyang Technological University say that they’ve developed an advanced lithium-ion battery that recharges to 70 percent full in two minutes and lasts 20 years.  Apple will be pushing the limits of battery technology (and the patience of its customers if the charging becomes an issue) with its new watch.   

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