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Tesla CTO: Bulk energy storage will grow much faster than people expect and by 2025 all cars will be electric.

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Jennifer Runyon explains:

Tesla Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel offered a vision for the future of energy storage and PV. Straubel believes that the energy storage industry is “right at the precipice” of massive cost declines like PV experienced. “The next decade is going to look very different because all of the demand [for energy storage technology] coming from stationary energy storage and from electric vehicles — from many different companies not just Tesla — will change the demand curve and slope in a huge way,” he said. “It’s kind of like the difference between solar used for pocket calculators and satellites VS solar used for buildings. The demand is orders of magnitude higher and puts it on a different trajectory for cost declines.”

To put it in numbers, Straubel believes that the demand for batteries coming from just his company will be something like 35GWh of energy storage by 2020. “That is more lithium-ion capacity than existed in the entire world in 2013.”

Tesla will be demanding some of this battery technology for its Powerpack, a utility-scale battery that the company has recently unveiled. The Powerpack is about 10 times bigger than the Powerwall, which is designed for behind-the-meter residential applications. It is a 100kWh “building block” that is designed to be scaled up into an array.  The Powerpack has a 10-year lifetime.  Straubel showed the audience a conceptual drawing of a theoretical 100MWh/25MW power plant. “There is a clear and present value for transmission and distribution support,” he said.

Straubel closed with some very aggressive predictions that seem more like a wish list than what may actually take place. “In our view battery costs are going to decline much faster than most people expect.” He believes that in less than 10 years nearly all cars will be electric. Also he said bulk storage with batteries will grow faster than predicted.

“Our view is that batteries are really going to win” over other energy storage technologies like pumped hydro, compressed air energy storage, even flow batteries, he said. “We are seeing price declines that make a lot of those technologies somewhat stranded,” he added.

“So if we can have solar generation at $0.02-0.03 per kWh and if you can have a levelized cost of a battery that may fall below $0.10 per kWh you suddenly get to have energy that is 100 percent firm and buffered from photovoltaics that is cheaper than fossil energy,” he said. That goal is in “grasping distance” according to Straubel. 

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