It had nothing to do with free electricity — Tesla’s system was not quite as simple as that.
“The first thing Tesla did with his free electricity system was to charge his Tesla batteries. He didn’t even start charging his battery until they were full,” said Tim Anderson, former president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “He didn’t even have the batteries hooked up to a supply of electricity — he didn’t even have the power supply to produce it — but he went on the offensive.”
Tesla built his power plants by using the energy of wind turbines to drive the batteries. In a similar fashion, he and his Tesla Powerpack energy storage system allow customers to tap renewable energy and store it in stationary batteries.
“I think if a person takes solar [energy], they should think of it like buying a battery — if you’re going to try to put solar on your roof, we think it’s better to buy a battery system,” said Musk.
Tesla also made a point to emphasize how the products were made by independent technicians, rather than contractors like SolarCity.
“We believe these products are built with care,” said Musk. “You’ll find that every component is carefully analyzed, inspected and tested in-house.”
The company spent at least $1 billion building those solar plants, and said it spent at most just $5 million on a project connected to California’s largest rooftop solar array.
Tesla said the plant was “built and operated by independent technicians” and that Tesla could have “spent a fortune” on that project.
What are the main benefits of the project? As Musk said in the Tesla presentation: “There are huge benefits to going 100 per cent renewable — no electricity, or as close to 100 per cent renewable as possible.”
For that to happen, the state needs to phase out fossil fuel production on its land, and eventually get to an 80 per cent renewable electricity generation rate.
In other words, Musk argues this plant could be the first large-scale demonstration of solar energy power generating 100 per cent without the need for the grid altogether.
That’s a big deal.
“We are looking at 100 megawatts of capacity with solar power, which is a pretty big step up from what is in California right now,” said Musk. “I’d call that the Holy Grail.”
Musk also argued that Tesla Powerpacks are capable of generating enough power to power millions of homes, but the battery won’t