You could say that Elon Musk is a man of extravagance. He seemingly wants to do everything he puts his mind to bigger and better than anyone before him. That is why it was not much of a surprise when Tesla announced their plans to build one of the largest commercial buildings by volume. Dubbed the “Gigafactory”, plans are for this massive complex to open near Reno Nevada in early 2016, and projected to be completed by 2020.
The main factory will be over 13.5 million square feet, and will hold over 6,500 employees. This space will be second in size only to the Boeing plant in Washington State. The buildout cost for this project has been estimated at over $5 billion. The entire complex will stretch over 3,000 acres. Musk, never wanting to settle for second place has hinted that expansion over the next few years could extend the plant to a level that would exceed the Boeing plant.
The main function of this plant will be to mass produce batteries for cars, and the recently famed “Powerpacks” for homes as well as commercial buildings. It is believed that once this building is fully operational, it will be producing more batteries per year than were made in the entire world in 2013.
The plan for battery mass production is designed to cut costs enough on the newly designed Tesla Model 3, (scheduled for spring of 2016) as well as the home version of the “powerwall” to entice John Q. Public to enter the world that Musk is so meticulously designing. By reducing costs by as much as 30%, the goal is to make these innovations affordable for everyone.
THE GOAL OF BEING NET ZERO
As is the case with most of Elon Musk’s endeavors, simply striving to be the largest operation is not enough. Musk, who is outwardly with his social and environmental conscience, plans for this structure to be a net zero energy consumer, meaning it will be 100% carbon neutral. The entire complex is being outfitted with solar arrays. The main building has been designed to cover the entire massive roof with nothing but solar panels, as well as the surrounding hillsides.
However, the renewable construction is only one part in this complex plan. Once operational, this plant will not burn any fossil fuels. Musk’s plan was simple. If there are no natural gas pipelines running into the building, his engineers would be forced to find a way to make everything work, and still maintain the “net zero” blueprint. There is brilliance in this plan, since the design is determined to be “clean”, therefore no temptation can be made to deviate towards a process that includes carbon output. Whether this building achieves its ultimate goal of zero emissions or not, this valiant effort is the type of thinking that is assured to be copied and duplicated by many going forward during new construction designs.
Once operational, the plan is to simply put: Change The World. Tesla and SolarCity will start mass producing solar panels and batteries (including the Powerwall) to attempt to keep up with the growing demand. After Musk unveiled his revolutionary battery in May of this year, $800 million worth of these items were reserved within the first week. It was this type of public reaction that had Elon thinking big while planning his monumental project.
Musk believes that his vision of getting his batteries in the public’s hands has the potential of reducing the worlds need for fossil fuel generation plants by as much as 10% over the next 20 years. These may seem like lofty goals, but just in the past year, we are already starting to see planned results that point towards this idea.
Green Mountain Power, which is a utility in Vermont, is planning on utilizing the Tesla Powerwall as a rental to their customers for a small monthly fee. The plan is to get one strapped to as many customers’ garage walls as possible. This function would serve 2 purposes. First, it would serve as a backup generation source for customers in the event of a power outage. Secondly, it would allow the utility to tap into the reserve power of the batteries during peak demand periods instead of relying on their current and very expensive backup generation sources. The eventual plan would be for this to be so cost effective and efficient that they could offer them to all customers for free.
Once this project is completed, there will be a few things to take away from Musk’s latest endeavor. The first will be that this creation will be on a scale that won’t be duplicated very often. The second is that this will allow Tesla to create an affordable alternative power source for the masses. The third is that this massive technological achievement can and will be met without the reliance on fossil fuels and without creating a giant footprint made of carbon.
SVP – NAEA
This articles was originally posted at: http://northamericanenergyadvisory.com/elon-musk-and-the-gigafactory/ on