While Elon Musk's Tesla stalls in its production of a home battery system, the revolution it promised with the device is well under way. A virtual mob of new technologies is storming the rigid architecture of the electric grid, promising radical improvements in efficiency and usefulness.
It’s not as though Calgary entrepreneur Brent Harris set out to take on Elon Musk and beat the legendary innovator at his own game. “That’s not our mission,” Harris says of Eguana Technologies, the company he founded 15 years ago to bring green energy systems to remote, off-grid locations. “But,” he adds, sounding more surprised than proud, “it certainly is the situation at this time.”
Musk’s Tesla Inc. first announced its Powerwall home battery system in 2015 amid heady expectations. Energy storage promised to take home solar systems mainstream, to save householders money, if not make them independent of the conventional grid altogether. According to the hype, what the Tesla electric car did to the automotive industry, the Tesla Powerwall would do to the electrical system.
But full production of the unit still awaits the completion of a Tesla “gigafactory” in California, so in the meantime, thousands of consumers in Europe and the United States have snapped up competing battery systems controlled by Eguana Technologies.
The company’s biggest customer base is Germany, where the high cost of power has inspired a world-leading shift to rooftop solar generation — and where being able to store that power for when you need it most can cut reliance on the grid by 80 per cent. Eguana is also focusing on another solar hot spot, Hawaii, where it has partnered with the state’s largest solar installer to supply the batteries all new systems now require.
A mob of new technologies storming the grid
Even without Tesla leading it, the revolution the company promised is well under way. A virtual mob of new technologies is storming the rigid architecture of the Edison-era electric grid, promising radical improvements in its efficiency and usefulness. For consumers struggling with the steadily rising cost of power, the revolution promises greater control, allowing them to determine when, where and what kind of power to use. It will also turn utilities from one-way pipelines into complex webs where energy is produced and traded in multiple directions with the speed and efficiency of a stock exchange. And for society at large, it holds the tantalizing promise of an affordable system fully run on renewable energy.
Eguana, which takes its name from the sun-loving reptile, initially developed its “smart inverter” technology to deliver power from fuel cells in remote locations. But battery-backed solar energy held such promise that it quickly became the company’s main business.
“We basically make the battery do interesting things on the grid,” Harris explains. “It will let you store your solar energy during the day for use at night. Or, if you’re in a place that has time-of-use rates, it will charge the battery at a low-cost time to offset buying power at a high-cost time.”
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