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Old, house new energy: ditch your utility company

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Green Renovations

Power Wall from Tesla

Utility companies work on a centralized model, and for one hundred years have relied on legal monopolies to ensure that they make a profit. They build giant, central, and unhealthy power plants designed to meet demand on the hottest and coldest days of the year. They can adjust to changing energy needs and they aren't interested in sharing the profit with you.

In the past several months, the end of the old-school energy monopolies has come into plain site. Very soon you will be able to be your own energy producer and store that energy to use whenever you please.

A while back, I wrote that Tesla, the meteoric Silicon Valley electric car company, was working on batteries for the home that would change the way we use energy.

Tesla has now sent shockwaves through the industry with their recent announcement of the Tesla PowerWall batteries for home and commercial use. For a surprisingly low $3500, you can now buy a battery pack capable of storing 10kWh of energy. That's about the price of a gas powered backup generator. The impact of this can't be overstated.

Tesla wants to make your home a "virtual power plant."

Tesla's website boasts that the "PowerWall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and powers your home in the evening. It also fortifies your home against power outages by providing a backup electricity supply. Automated, compact, and simple to install, PowerWall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup."

With a 10kWh battery you could shift some of your unused solar energy for use during morning and evening hours when you typically use more energy. You can also shift the time-of-day usage from the grid and avoid paying peak use charges in areas that charge more during certain times of day. By 2 PM today my solar array had already generated enough energy to fill two Tesla PowerWall batteries (20kWh). 20kWh would be enough to run ALL of these items in our house:

Flat Screen for 10 hours = 1 kWh

Refrigerator for 7 days = 7 kWh

Wash 3 loads of laundry = 7 kWh

Light the house for 1 week = 5 kWh

That's just from the solar energy produced in 1/2 a day. Not bad news for you. But not good news for your utility company if they don't come up with an innovative plan for adapting to the new energy technologies.

It's important to note that this technology isn't about getting you "off-grid". It will be more like "on-network." In the very near future your energy supply will be more like the movement and storage of energy in the natural world. Harvesting energy will be adjacent and distributed rather than distant and centralized. Like the leaves of a tree, energy will be harvested for where it is used.

In Toronto, Canada, the municipal utility company is implementing what Tesla founder Elon Musk is calling the "Internet of Energy." They are installing solar panels to produce energy and compact batteries for storage in twenty single family homes in a Toronto neighborhood. The goal is to create a prototype for a network of "neighborhood power plants."

Using smart power management software, the neighborhood power plant can tell the batteries to start storing energy if the weather forecast indicates a severe storm approaching that could shut down the power grid. Most importantly, most, if not all, of the energy from a single neighborhood power network, could come from renewable power that is free for life rather than from a distant, dirty, and expensive power plant.

There are dozens of companies rushing to market to make it easier for you to be part of the energy future. It's only a matter of time before the cost of producing your own power makes your utility company look like an 8-track cassette.

P.S. Want to keep reading? You can learn more about the Tesla batteries here.

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  1. 3 Responses  to “Old, house new energy: ditch your utility company”

  2. Lucinda Watts
    Nov 1, 2015
    We have a beautiful Colonial Revival home in Basking Ridge, NJ. We've stripped, glazed and put in new ropes and weights in all of our beautiful 109 year old windows. The results are beyond belief! The one problem we do have is that they are not energy efficient. So, we will definitely go on Lori Sipes website for tips. Sorry for providing too much information, but we have spent 25 yrs stripping all of the woodwork in the house (millions of doors), insulating exterior walls, relining flues, remodeling bathrooms in a period correct manner, and I could go on and on. We took out the exterior oil tank and installed two Roth 250 gal oil tanks in the basement and put in a new boiler. In reading your article, you referenced the Tesla PowerWall battery that works in concert with solar panels on the roof. That is just a fantastic idea for electricity, but what can we do about the unbelievably oil sucking " new" boiler? Is there anything like the Tesla PowerWall that can help us reduce our oil costs? Again, sorry for providing too much information, but we have loved restoring every inch of our 4700 sq ft home over since 1991 when we bought it. It's now time for us to leave our "beautiful old lady" and we need to appeal to young buyers by making her more energy efficient. I loved your videos. It's so nice to see a younger couple love the beauty and charm of a home from the past. Any information you can give us would be so appreciated. Lucinda Watts
  3. Dan Scherer
    Oct 30, 2015
    Instead of the energy companies fighting this progress they should be embracing it and offering cost effective, fixed cost packages for home owners who want solar, battery backup and electric vehicles. They could layout a distributed solar/battery grid and take a good portion of the oil and gas industry's profits. They just need to get busy doing it or someone else is going beat them to it. Evolve or die!
  4. Beverly K. Wilson
    Oct 19, 2015
    Good news, indeed, Matt! I own a 125 y.o. home in Jackson, Michigan and eagerly follow everything you write about your own home. I've owned a hybrid Prius for 11 years and love living cleaner and greener for less money. Keep us posted on these batteries . . . I'm ready to try these on my home!