St. Paul company is one of first in country to install Tesla’s Powerwall
Ross Starfeldt, weary of power outages at his Bloomington house, recently bought a suitcase-size battery to hang on the wall of his garage, becoming one of the first Minnesotans to embrace billionaire Elon Musk’s vision of the future.
The lithium-ion battery was built by Musk’s Tesla Inc., which is betting on success with battery-operated houses just as with electric cars.
The company this year quietly began selling its Powerwall battery, which can store power generated by solar panels during the day or purchased from the power company at night when rates are lowest. Starfeldt does both.
“When the sun goes down, our house is still using energy generated from our solar panels,” Starfeldt said. “It is a good feeling knowing the energy is clean energy.”
In the Twin Cities, at least a dozen Powerwalls have been installed, all of them by St. Paul-based All Energy Solar, which has taken orders to install an additional 50 more systems by the end of the year.
“Energy storage has been top of mind for a lot of solar energy customers, but cost has always been a driving factor,” said Brian Allen, co-founder of All Energy Solar. “We’re now to the point where energy storage makes a lot more sense.”
A Tesla representative declined to comment on the Powerwall rollout in Minnesota or elsewhere. Musk first introduced the product at an event in April 2015 and announced a second version last October. Tesla last week said it began production of a related product, roof tiles that collect solar power.
Allen started having conversations with Tesla about Powerwall two years ago, he said. The company submitted an application to become a certified installer and the company went through a “full-on vetting,” Allen said. Last year, he and a master electrician were allowed to attend an out-of-state training session at Tesla. All Energy began installing Powerwall batteries just two months ago.
Home energy storage isn’t new. Deep cell batteries coupled with power inverters have long been used to store energy generated by solar panels, and people concerned with power failures have long had access to gas- or propane-fueled generators.
The Powerwall is compact, easy to use and doesn’t require regular maintenance. And while Powerwall users in Minnesota must be connected to the power grid whether or not they own solar panels or a wind turbine, that’s expected to change someday. Eventually, people will be able to generate their own electricity, store it for use when needed and be free of the utility system’s grid.