Apple spent $50 million to find Tesla to buy batteries. What does it want to do?

When I was a child, the four-wheel drive toy car was one of the toys I was most familiar with. The only regret is that I need to prepare a little more rechargeable battery. Otherwise, if the battery capacity is insufficient after playing for a few times, the toy car will not move, and it will take a long time. I imagine that there is a super-capacity battery that can keep the toy car running all the time.

Although I failed to realize my childhood fantasy, with the development of technology, all large cars now have batteries. The battery capacity can support them to run 500 km, and this is not the limit of contemporary super batteries. .

▲ Apple's power plant in California

According to electricreports , Apple recently spent more than $50 million to buy batteries from Tesla, but this time Apple can buy batteries not to build cars, but to store energy.

Apple said in a related press release that this battery energy storage project can power more than 7,000 homes a day.

What kind of battery can store so much power?

Megapacks

The battery used in Apple's battery energy storage project is Tesla's new battery product Megapacks launched in 2019. It is a comprehensive battery module system composed of battery modules, two-way inverters, and thermal management systems.

▲ Energy storage system composed of multiple Megapacks batteries. Picture from: xxx

Megapacks are designed for public facilities or medium and large commercial organizations. Each Megapacks can store up to 3 MKh of battery energy.

This may not be easy to understand. Using the official analogy given by Tesla is that the energy storage system composed of Megapacks can store up to 1GWh, which can support all households in San Francisco for 6 hours.

And because Megapacks itself is a battery energy storage module, it is relatively easy to assemble, only need to connect its output port with the wire of the site.

The high energy storage capacity of the battery and the relatively easy assembly are also one of the important reasons why Apple chose it. According to The verge, Apple purchased 85 Megapacks from Tesla this time, with a maximum of 240 MWh of energy storage, which is enough for 7000 households. one day.

As early as 2015, Apple built an ultra-large solar power farm in California, USA. Megapacks is just for the use of this power plant, and the completed post-energy storage project module is also one of the largest energy storage projects in the United States.

The excess electricity converted by the solar power plant during the day will be stored in batteries to power Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino when needed. This way, on the one hand, it reduces the loss of solar energy and on the other hand, it also increases the output of the power plant.

Moreover, compared with the previous solar power generation that is affected by sunlight, the battery storage method can use the stored electric energy at any time, and the flexibility and usability have been improved a lot.

This is also conducive to Apple's carbon neutral goal, solar power generation itself is considered one of the environmentally friendly power generation methods. And Apple also said that it will share relevant experience with companies in Apple's supply chain, and promote each company to reduce carbon emissions, use sustainable energy, and further move toward carbon neutrality.

This is not the first time Megapacks has become an energy source for large-scale utilities. As early as 2020, the Monterey County Planning Commission approved Tesla and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to jointly deploy Megapacks to support the Moss Landing Power Plant ( moss landing).

▲ Picture from: EKMMetering

The Megapacks energy storage device built near the Moss Landing Power Plant has a total capacity of 730 MWh. It will be used when the local public grid cannot cope with peak demand to provide power resources for local public facilities. Expansion.

Flexible storage capacity, large capacity and other characteristics allow Megapacks to be used in public facilities of different specifications and different needs, and Apple and some government projects will endorse it, plus sustainable energy such as solar energy and wind energy. Combined, Megapacks' energy storage batteries will only get better and better in commercial applications.

Tesla's new business: energy storage batteries

Speaking of this, you might be thinking, since it can be used in large facilities like Apple headquarters, is it possible for individual homes and small shops to use energy storage batteries like Megapacks for emergencies? It.

In fact, Tesla thinks the same way, and even the development sequence starts with the development of household energy storage batteries. Tesla launched the Powerwall in 2015, which can also be charged by solar energy.

▲ Powerwall

The first-generation Powerwall has a capacity of 6.4kWh, a continuous peak value of 2kW, a price of US$3,000, and a cycle number of 5000 times. According to the needs of the family, multiple Powerwalls can be assembled to increase the maximum battery capacity.

In 2016, the second-generation Powerwall was launched with a capacity of 13.5kWh. As for the commercial field, Tesla first launched an energy storage battery called Powerpack, which had an energy storage capacity of 210kWh, and then Megapacks.

▲ Tesla Powerpack. Picture from: electric

It can be seen that the hardware literacy of energy storage batteries is constantly improving, but from the perspective of consumers, it is still necessary to look at the practicality and price. After Forbes has experienced the first generation of Powerwall, it said that the product and solar panels are comprehensively calculated. The electricity price is 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is higher than the US average electricity bill of 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Therefore, Powerwall is also called "the toy of the rich" by some users. Does this mean that energy storage batteries are meaningless, of course not.

At this stage, energy storage batteries are not intended to replace the traditional power grid. Powerwall is more of an auxiliary energy storage. In the introduction of Tesla's official website, it also specifically emphasized that it can be used as a backup battery during power outages and other natural disasters to provide electricity for the entire family.

Powerwall is also more cost-effective in some areas with high user demand or remote areas. For example, the users who use the electricity provided by Pacific Natural Gas and Electric Power Company just mentioned, the electricity price will continue to rise during the high demand period, and even exceed 40 US dollars at one time. Every ten million hours.

Moreover, with the further development of technology, the price of batteries is expected to fall further. As for commercial enterprises or large institutions, they are not only considering electricity bills. They are also purchasing energy storage batteries for their resistance to natural disasters and environmental protection. Important influencing factors.

During the period, Tesla also made a big decision. In 2016, it acquired SolarCity, the largest solar company in the United States at the time, for about US$2.6 billion, and obtained many users through it. It can be said that the emergence of Powerwall, Powerpack, and Megapacks also It is closely related to this acquisition.

This has also brought a lot of benefits to Tesla. Musk even said in 2019 that Tesla's energy business may surpass the electric vehicle business.

Although Tesla has won a lot of orders, there is no shortage of competitors in the field of energy storage batteries. Battery manufacturer LG Chem, solar product companies SolarEdge, Enphase, etc. are all actively exploring this field.

The market is still developing further. The installed capacity of energy storage equipment has increased from 600 megawatt hours (MWh) in 2012 to 15,900 MWh at the end of 2018. Bloomberg New Energy Finance even estimates that it will reach 352,800 MWh by 2025.

On the whole, energy storage batteries are still an emerging field. Both product standards and user consumption standards are changing rapidly, and the market will continue to develop rapidly.

The future of energy storage batteries

It can be said that the boom in the energy storage field in recent years has been closely related to the decline in battery pack prices. Thanks to the rapid development of the electric vehicle industry, the continuous entry of large companies and capital has formed a qualitative change that has led to the increase in battery capacity and the decline in prices.

The battery price has been reduced from USD 1,000 per kWh in 2010 to less than USD 200 per kWh today.

Of course, there may be some specific differences in reality. The media electrek, which focuses on the sustainable field, once stated that the price of Megapacks is about US$200 to US$300 per kWh, compared to nearly US$1,000 per kW in previous years. The price at the time has dropped a lot.

The government’s emphasis on energy storage batteries is also one of the important factors that promote its rapid development. In this regard, Australia is one of the countries that have developed relatively early. In 2016, 1.7 million people were cut off due to large-scale safety accidents, and the city became an "island". Since then, Australia has incorporated energy storage batteries into one of the components of the modern power grid.

The following year, Tesla and developer Neoen deployed a 100 MWh battery energy storage system in South Australia. According to a survey report released by consulting company Aurecon , the battery energy storage system has brought many benefits during the operation of the battery energy storage system, responding to high power demand, reducing the cost of expanding power, and assisting in stable power transmission in the event of a large-scale power failure.

As for the commercial sector, business philosophy is also changing. The environmental protection of products and even the industrial chain is getting more and more attention, and the concept of environmental sustainability is also increasingly supported by consumers. Nielsen, a market research organization, once issued a report. According to the report, two-thirds of consumers worldwide (including 73% of the post-80s and post-90s) are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. This has prompted major companies such as Apple and Microsoft to put forward the goal of carbon neutrality.

At this stage, the technical difficulty and cost of large-scale storage of electricity are much higher than that of traditional power generation. However, to achieve carbon neutrality, the proportion of clean energy must be increased. Some countries are already developing a grid-level that can be used by a city and is cheap Batteries, this should also be the biggest impact that energy storage batteries may bring in the future.

With large-scale investment in energy storage batteries by large enterprises and governments, it is believed that their performance and price will get better and better, and their proportion in clean energy will also become higher and higher.

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