Home Batteries: A Beginner’s Guide to Reshaping the Grid

“It seems to me that our problem has a lot less to do with the mechanics of solar power than the politics of human power — specifically whether there can be a shift in who wields it, a shift away from corporations and toward communities…” A well-known call to move towards sustainable advancement by Naomi Klein in her New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014 research piece This Changes Everything: Capitalism VS the Climate. Now, four years later, the message remains true: Humanity must reshape the way we systemically handle energy if we are to maintain the health of our society, and our planet.

Every day we turn on our (energy-consuming) devices and see headlines about the next feat or failing of a sustainable world. The truth is, we have the ideas, and in many instances we have the know-how, to make a sustainable planet for ourselves and our children. Many of these methods lead to more jobs, greater profits, and a superior standard of living across the globe. While there are countless possibilities, I would like to introduce you to a lesser-recognized method than your garden variety (ha!) green energy platforms: Home Batteries.

 

How it works:

The basic premise is exactly what it sounds like. Much like that remote control you can’t seem to find at the moment, or the new toy your child has received for their birthday (which they definitely aren’t tired of already), throw a battery in your house and watch as everything functions just the way you’d like it to. And if you’re worried that your battery won’t be enough to power your house, don’t fear. For now, you will still have access to your local energy provider. But soon enough, that provider may just be the neighbors next door.

Tesla’s Home Battery. Marketing shot from Tesla website.

Home Batteries are efficient lithium-ion units, but, like any battery, they can only hold so much energy. If you connect your battery to a solar panel (or several for the truly devoted investor), in the right lighting you will achieve an energy surplus. As soon as your battery can no longer take in more energy, that energy could be sold back to your energy company, taking away from your monthly debt, and lighting the kitchen for Jane & John Doe next door. But don’t forget! Not only are you saving money on your bills now, but your trusty battery still has all that energy stored up to light your kitchen. And bedroom. And living room.

 

An Expanding Market & A Sustaining Investment:

These truths make a Home Battery (correctly) appear to be a box that just sits on your wall and makes you money so long as the sun shines. A box that connects you and your neighbors in a way never before accomplished by humanity, allowing us to provide for one another without even having to lift a finger. Seems like a good investment, right? Well, Tesla and Nissan agree with you. As reported by WIRED Magazine, soon-to-be millions of citizens of the United Kingdom are now using this system to save money,

Tesla Solar Paneling. Marketing shot from Tesla website

 emissions, and the world as we know it. After Tesla made the option marketable (i.e. domestically affordable), Nissan is expanding into the market. With both giants working on paneling and batteries, you can have one system provide you with energy, save you money, and run your car, all under the same brand. Over half of our carbon emissions come from electric powering and transportation. If we can move these technologies out of just the U.K. and into the norm, we could halve our global emissions rate! (WIRED 2018)

We have the technology, and it is working so well that we see high levels of investment both privately and publicly. Now, no one can claim that Green is only for the future. We are living in that future, and investing in the technologies that will make it sustainable will do the same for your finances. Long-lasting green on our planet means longer lasting green for our wallets. Sustainable energy is the moral, ethical, and economic decision to make. From making the reception of energy easier, to not having to fund intense research on the newest way to crude-ly (ha again!) beat it out of our planet. Not to mention how much can be saved by taxpayers on community outreach! If we stop spending money to pollute a community, then spend money to clean it up and save its inhabitants, we are saving on two fronts! So, how can communities reshape our grid for the better, and vice-versa? Maybe by…

 

Putting the “Unity” back in “Community”:

Writing about communities is beginning to make it sound as if home batteries will influence governing structures. Believe me when I say, this is only the beginning. Purchasing home batteries and solar panels will help you tremendously. But, mass groups purchasing these systems? That will influence and help all your neighbors. (Yes, all of them. We’re in this together. But, forgetting about how Greg on the corner loves to mow at 7am on Sundays, let’s get back to saving the world.)

These new sustainable energy systems have the potential to, dare I say, Reshape the Grid. Everyone (or just about everyone) you know is on it. Anything with that much of an influence will have to run into federal and state regulation somehow. So, to discuss how a movement towards greener energy will influence and be influenced by the government, our communities, and everyone within them, I decided to reach out to someone on the front lines of the Green Movement: Dr. Nurete Brenner, Co-Director of the Lake Erie Institute: Environmental Education for an Earth-Honoring Global Civilization.

Nissan’s Home Battery. Marketing shot from Nissan U.K. website.

I would like to once again thank Dr. Brenner for taking the time to discuss the Green Movement with me, and for answering the following questions:

Q1: Now, the topic of this article is Home Batteries. While this technology’s becoming mainstream is still a bit off in the distance, the ideas that these batteries represent are ideas which we, as a society, certainly have the ability to tackle right now. This includes sustainable energy, and a push for unification between ourselves and our neighbors (of varying distances). How important will unifying ourselves as communities be in the push for sustainable energy? 
 
Dr. Brenner: Sustainable energy is by definition local energy. Sustainable, local energy has the potential to fundamentally change our economy because it will decentralize the power grid and thus also democratize it. Right now, energy flows from a top point, or central point giving power to a centralized authority. With the advances made in battery technology, we are enabling each community to produce and store its own sustainable energy, which will ripple through the system and upend the top-down economy. Thus, each community will become more autonomous. Communities can lead the way by uniting together to achieve a more localized, sustainable energy grid, which will create a positive feedback loop of further uniting the community.
 
Q2: We live in an era where giants of industry hold incredible sway over our economies, and thus our livelihoods. We see groups from Tesla and SpaceX, to Nissan and Starbucks, dominating headlines for scientific and sustainable movements. Many are viewing private businesses as the heroes of sustainability. But, as someone who works on the front-lines of the Green Movement, won’t it be more important to enforce changes in our governments (even if eventually it may be firms providing the tools for a greener society)?
 
Dr. Brenner:  In our current economic/political system, governments are controlled by deep-pocketed donors. Instead of one person one vote, we’ve created a system of one-dollar one vote. Thus, corporations have become the de facto leaders of the green movement because government has become beholden to corporations. But corporations by law and by their very nature serve shareholders and the bottom line. So, even though corporations and smaller businesses have made strides in the green movement, they have also suppressed some of the progress we could have made when it was not in their corporate interest to do so. And the government, supported by wealthy, corporate donors, has mostly served as the “water carriers” to these corporations enacting laws favorable to them. We, the people, need to take back the reins from the corporations. Both business and government need to serve the needs of all stakeholders (not just shareholders), including: private individuals, communities, the planet, and future generations.
 
Q3: Finally, to tie the previous points together, what kind of future do you see for Energy Democratization? Earlier in the article I mention how, in the present grid system, someone with solar paneling and a battery can sell back to the energy companies in order to relieve some of their monthly debt. But, if we were to return control of the grid to the people rather than the private sector, what benefits could such a connective system bring?
 
Dr. Brenner: The potential benefits of democratizing the energy grid are far-reaching and almost impossible to predict right now. Decentralizing energy has the potential to transform not just the energy sector but the entire economy and thus all of society. Those currently on “top,” who control the purse strings and thus gain decision making power over the rest of society will – potentially – lose their power. Those on the “bottom” who have been disempowered will find themselves with an incredible array of new opportunities. Perhaps we can erase these false hierarchies completely. In any event, with automation slated to replace workers in every sector of the economy within the next decade, I believe we are moving towards a jobless future. It’s time we begin a serious discussion about a Universal Basic Income. Right now we define ourselves by our jobs, by our identities as workers and as consumers. It’s time to change this and begin to define ourselves as autonomous citizens, who are not obligated to spend our time and talents enriching the already wealthy and powerful, but who may become free to devote our time and attention to our communities, our families, our children, our friends, our gardens, our pets, our wilderness areas, and our planet.
 
-End Interview-
 

Change the Grid, Change the World:

By this point, I would hope for you to have found some excitement, inspiration, and empowerment just by learning that yes, this technology is here. It has the capability to reshape our lives. To reinvent our economy. To better our planet. If we take this leap, it will be the most daring since we turned jungles into cities. Now, we can use this power to ensure  jungles and cities are no longer at odds. We have the capability to reduce our debts as a whole society. We have the means to reshape our economies so that, rather than waste our lives destroying and rebuilding, we can just continue to build. We have the humanity to realize this is the best course we can take to keep our species alive.

It is time to leave behind fossil fuels. Home Batteries are an emerging and growing market that will allow us to. Look to the United Kingdom for proof of function. Watch as global investors pay into Tesla and Nissan. The technology is here, the People are willing to invest their own money not only because they believe in it, but because there is also incredible wealth to be found. A wealth of finances, resources, knowledge, and peace of mind. To reiterate: The time is now, the technology is here, the investors are ready. Ready to invest not only in something efficient, something that will pay you (in many ways) every time the sun shines, but something that will allow our society to thrive more than it has ever before.

It will take time and effort. But as of today, you can affordably buy this technology. Anything else would be a poor investment, financial or otherwise.

 

Trevor Borsh is an international communications program developer, international business and political science student, and assistant in the Chatham University Business & Entrepreneurship Department. This is Trevor’s first year working in the department, and he looks forward to promoting scientific literacy and an international mindset at the university.

 

 

In partnership and with thanks to:

 

 

 

Peer revisions completed by student workers and faculty of the Chatham University Business & Entrepreneurship Department and the Chatham University Office of Sustainability

Chatham University is proud to have the goal of Net 0 Carbon Output by 2025. The above piece shares the ideals of the university’s mission.

 

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1 Response

  1. AH says:

    Trevor, Merci d’avoir partagé cet article intéressant. On peut tout faire quelque chose pour mieux vivre d’une manière “durable” (sustainable). C’est vraiment important, ce que vous avez écrit.

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