tesla unveils new battery system

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  • A Tesla subsidiary called Gambit Energy Storage LLC might be constructing a giant battery just outside of Houston.
  • The idea is to plug the utility-scale battery into the power grid—the same one that caused February’s devastating power outages.
  • If true, the battery could provide enough power for “about 20,000 homes on a hot summer day,” Bloomberg says.

    Last month’s massive power outages in Texas made one thing abundantly clear: the state’s energy infrastructure is in need of a major overhaul. So naturally, Elon Musk, Texas’s newest resident, is on the case.

    A Tesla subsidiary called Gambit Energy Storage LLC is reportedly constructing a massive ad-hoc battery that can plug right into Houston’s feeble power grid, according to a recent report in Bloomberg. The battery is so large, with more than 100 megawatts of energy storage capacity, that it could “power about 20,000 homes on a hot summer day.”

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    This move would mark Tesla’s first formal step into the U.S. energy sector after already seeing success in other countries, like Australia. In an October 2019 earnings call, Musk predicted his company’s energy business “could be bigger” than its auto sector over time.

    While Tesla has not yet confirmed reports of the Houston-area battery project, there are some publicly available property records that almost undeniably prove a Musk connection.

    Bloomberg found documents on file with Brazoria County (part of the Houston metropolitan statistical area) that show Gambit shares the same address as a Tesla building near the company’s Fremont, California auto plant. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also lists Gambit as a Tesla subsidiary.

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    Musk even mocked the Texas utility responsible for the snafu in a tweet. That may not seem significant, but he often tweets about personal gripes or fantastical ideas that eventually become real projects.

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    Popular Mechanics has reached out to Tesla for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

    Is the Big Battery Necessary?

    texas struggles with unprecedented cold and power outages

    People refill propane tanks at a propane gas station after winter weather caused electricity blackouts on February 18, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Winter storm Uri brought severe temperature drops causing a catastrophic failure of the power grid in Texas. About two million people went without electricity throughout Houston.

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    Think back to a few weeks ago, in the throes of Winter Storm Uri, when Texans were struggling to find safe ways to stay warm. As temperatures plummeted to as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) cut off power to millions of homes in a bid to reduce the strain on its power grid, the Texas Interconnection. It supplies power to over 25 million Texans, representing 90 percent of the state’s electrical load, according to an August 2018 ERCOT fact sheet.

    Days later, hundreds of thousands of people were still without power, and some even died from a combination of the cold and the improper use of backup home generators, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.


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    Texas’s grid crashed mostly as a result of frozen infrastructure, but also due to a failure of energy supply—about 28,000 megawatts of coal, nuclear, and gas power sources went offline. That represents approximately one-third of ERCOT’s total energy capacity.

    The type of battery that Tesla’s subsidiary company is supposedly producing could store up to 100 megawatts of power. That alone isn’t enough power to make up for the massive outage that Texans saw in February, but it’s a start. Gizmodo reports that a single megawatt of power could provide electricity to 164 homes, meaning the Gambit battery could theoretically power up 16,400 homes.

    How Does the Battery Work?

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    Bloomberg says the Gambit battery system is already registered with ERCOT, and the project sits nearby a Texas-New Mexico Power (TNMP) substation. The Lewisville-based TNMP is an electricity transmission and distribution service provider that supplies electricity to over 255,000 homes and businesses throughout Texas.

    This is a convenient location: When solar or wind farms produce excess electricity, utilities need a massive batteries to store the leftover power. Gambit could theoretically spread out multiple giant batteries—like the one currently under construction near Houston—across the state to store energy from various renewable energy sources.


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    That way, ERCO could supply electricity to Texans over shorter distances, creating a distributed power network. Historically, the grid has transported power across miles and miles of highly fragile transmission lines—ones that, you know, freeze.

    But Will the Battery Work?

    If Musk’s work in South Australia is any indicator, the Houston battery project could become a large-scale success.

    In 2016, South Australia experienced a near total blackout after a wild storm battered the region with 80,000 lightning strikes and at least two tornadoes. Tesla made a bold bet that it could reestablish power in the area with a grouping of the firm’s PowerPack lithium ion batteries within 100 days. Musk’s team did it in just 60 days.

    Tesla has since installed the world’s largest battery at the Hornsdale Power Reserve, a facility full of PowerPacks that can receive and store energy from nearby wind and solar farms. According to its website, the Hornsdale location can store up to 100 megawatts of power—the same as the Houston-area battery project. That giant battery helps to absorb blips in the surrounding power grid, thereby reducing outages for residents.

    The only real way to know if the Houston battery project will work is to wait until it’s in service. An ERCOT official told Bloomberg the battery had a “proposed commercial operation date” beginning on June 1.


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