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Tesla CTO: our energy storage is growing as fast as we can humanly scale it [Gallery of new Powerpack station]


Last week, we reported that Tesla quietly brought online its massive 80 MWh Powerpack station on Southern California Edison‘s grid a few weeks back. The two companies are now officially inaugurating the project at the Mira Loma substation today and Tesla CTO JB Straubel made a few comments about the company’s growing stationary energy storage business.

Tesla brought the project online in 3 months (94 days to be precise). Straubel told 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.”

The company’s work with battery packs for electric vehicles “laid a lot of the architectural foundation” for the Powerpack, which helped with the speed of deployment for the project.

“It’s not as if we’re starting from scratch,” Straubel said to the New York Times:

“Essentially, we can go and pour a slab and install the basic wiring, but each one of our Powerpacks is quite self-contained,”

Tesla released a few pictures of the new project today:

A company executive recently said that Tesla was in talks for ‘a number of new large’ utility-scale energy storage projects and Straubel added today that Tesla is scaling its energy storage business “as fast as we can humanly” can:

“It’s sort of hard to comprehend sometimes the speed all this is going at. Our storage is growing as fast as we can humanly scale it.”

The projects are becoming popular to maintain grid reliability and lower dependence on natural gas peaker plants. The system charges using electricity from the grid during off-peak hours, when demand is low, and then deliver electricity during peak hours.

Southern California Edison commissioned three similar projects – one by Tesla, one by Altagas with Samsung SDI batteries and another by AES – in order to compensate after the shutdown of the Aliso Canyon natural gas reservoir, which was the source for the power plants in the region, following the catastrophic rupture in 2015 that led California Governor Jerry Brown to issue a state of emergency.

While SCE has been ahead of the curve for utility-scale projects with those three, we can expect several more to come as battery cost drops and production ramps up.

It’s no coincidence that the timing of Tesla’s Mira Loma project comes with the start of production of the Powerpack 2 and the new 2170 battery cells at the Gigafactory in Nevada.

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