Elon Musk’s Powerwall Would Take Almost 40 Years To Pay For Itself

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

An Elon Musk Tesla Powerwall battery would take almost 40 years, or roughly four times its warranty period, to pay for itself, according to analysis performed by the Institute for Energy Research.

“It would take nearly forty years for a Powerwall to pay for itself, which is almost four times the warranty period. It is highly unlikely that it would even last that long,” Chris Warren of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

A Tesla Powerwall is a $7,340 lithium ion-battery that stores electricity for homes. The original intention of a Powerwall was to make rooftop solar panels economically viable for consumers.

A Powerwall would also take 38 years to save its owner enough money to justify the expense, according to IER. This payback time could be reduced with the purchase of a small home solar system to “only” 31 years. Tesla only offers 5 to 10 year warranties on its Powerwalls, and predicts they will last for only 15 years.

Additionally, Tesla Powerwalls are lithium ion-batteries which have a tendency to catch on fire or even explode if damaged in a certain way.

 

Institute For Energy Research Calculations

Institute For Energy Research Calculations

A different analysis estimates that a power-wall could save its owner a maximum of $1.06 a day. This means a Powerwall would take 25 years to pay for itself under the best possible scenario.

“One of the biggest issues with wind and solar is that they’re intermittent. A lot of folks point to battery storage as a solution, but this presents many technological hurdles and is extremely expensive. Tesla claims their new Powerwall overcomes a lot of these issues, but as our analysis shows, it remains very expensive,” continued Warren.

Solar and wind power aren’t reliable because of the intermittent nature of those energy sources. Environmentalists have long believed that reliable and cheap batteries could make solar and wind economical, which would reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help solve global warming. Tesla has work with SolarCity, another company chaired by Musk, to create Powerwall batteries theoretically capable of making solar and wind more reliable.

Supporting wind and solar power with batteries is extremely expensive, particularly in regards to home use. Even after billions have been put into battery research by Apple, Samsung, and other huge technology companies, batteries aren’t improving quickly. Despite enormous amounts of financial support from both the private sector and the government, only small gains in battery capacity and reducing costs have been made.

It is currently impossible to economically store power for times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

One of the world’s largest and most powerful batteries, located in Fairbanks, Ala., weighs 1,300-metric tons and is larger than a football field. It can only provide enough electricity for about 12,000 residents, or 38 percent of Fairbanks’ population, for seven minutes. That’s useful for short outages, which happen a lot in Alaska, but isn’t effective enough to act as a reserve for solar and wind.

The best way we have of “storing” power is pumping water up a hill, which actually accounts for 99 percent of all global energy storage.

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