Date: Saturday, 27 April 2019
Tesla posted its first-quarter results this week and while the larger than expected loss and reported wane in interest for its electric vehicles grabbed the headlines, there are a few other highlights from the company’s quarter that may have slipped past you.
While it’s a substantially smaller part of Tesla’s efforts, its energy storage division is extremely exciting. The Q1 results revealed a streamlining of its residential storage business with a simplified online sales channel to be rolled out.
“Energy generation and storage revenue should increase significantly in 2019. This increase is driven mainly due to the storage business as we increase production to address our backlog in Powerwall orders and deliver on our pipeline of orders for commercial storage and an expected growth in retrofit solar deployments in the second half of 2019,” according to the results.
That backlog is partly the result of the company shifting its efforts towards the production of its affordable Model 3 car.
“Energy storage production in the second half of 2018 was limited by cell production as we routed all available Gigafactory 1 cell capacity to supply Model 3. Some Gigafactory 1 cell production has been routed back to the energy storage business, enabling us to increase production in Q1 by roughly 30% compared to the previous quarter.” So there we go, a tangible reason to believe the energy business is going to get the boost Tesla is telling the market it will deliver.
That’s great but what is really great about Tesla, and its fellow energy storage system providers like Fluence and redT to name but two, is what they can deliver out in the field.
So the highlight of Tesla’s first quarter is not mentioned in its SEC filing. It can be found in East Africa. Areza and Maidma in Eritrea to be precise. UK solar developer has Solarcentury completed two mini-grids in each of the two rural communities. They combine solar and storage with back-up only diesel generators. Here, Tesla’s lithium batteries come into their own.
Areza’s 1.25MW grid and Maidma’s 1MW set-up have brought reliable power to 40,000 people, and crucially, local businesses. The systems have displaced diesel generators freeing the new mini-grids’ customers from fluctuating diesel prices, burdensome maintenance and reduced air quality.
“Our hope is that access to reliable electricity will support wider economic growth in the region and social development,” said Theo Guerre-Canon, project manager, Solarcentury at the time of the project’s commissioning. “For example, there’s a clinic in Areza that will now benefit from uninterrupted electricity.
A similar solar-and-storage system in the Philippines, also using Tesla batteries, is enabling local fisherman to freeze their catch and sell it further afield.
"The Eritrean project presents a model for rural electrification, and Solarcentury is in discussions about similar projects across Africa,” added Guerre-Canon.
Whether you're a dyed-in-the-wool Tesla fanboy, or you love to hate them, it's impossible to ignore the scale of the opportunity for Tesla and its peers. Or the scale of the impact they can make.