A Giga’s Worth of Data for the “Gigafactory”

Tesla, the innovative manufacturer of electric vehicles, has announced plans to build an electric car battery “Gigafactory” by 2017. Tesla’s ability to control production of its own lithium-ion batteries will allow the cost of its battery to be cut by more than 30% per kilowatt-hour; with the goal of producing 500,000 vehicle batteries per year by 2020. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, plans for the Gigafactory to not only supply Tesla and other car companies with batteries, but also to produce stationary batteries for buildings and renewable energy assets. These batteries are very similar to batteries involved in three ESTCP demonstrations, which are part of ESTCP’s portfolio of projects demonstrating various components of microgrids on military installations. Similar to Tesla, ESTCP understands the value of investing in energy storage technologies to cost effectively support our buildings, vehicles, installations, renewable energy assets, security, and general energy consumption into the future.

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The first project led by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LNBL), Optimal Scheduling of Air Force Demonstration Plug-in Electric Vehicles, is the most closely related to Tesla. This project is demonstrating the multifaceted utility of using electric vehicles not only for travel on base, but also as an aggregated demand response energy storage asset at Los Angeles AFB, CA. Unlike existing electric vehicles on the market, the vehicles used for this demonstration can discharge during a utility demand event based upon signals received from the grid.

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The second project, an effort lead by Raytheon, Zinc Bromide Flow Battery Installation for Islanding and Backup Power, is demonstrating Primus Power’s zinc-bromide flow battery and energy storage system (ESS) at MCAS Miramar CA. The primary intent of the demonstration is to validate the battery’s ability to island the base from the grid when needed, while also integrating the battery and control system with Miramar's photovoltaic (PV) panels.

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The third project, led by PDE Total Energy Solutions’ project, Sodium-Metal-Halide Battery Energy Storage for DoD Installations, is demonstrating a Dynapower sodium-metal-halide battery and Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms CA. The demonstration is integrating the battery with Twentynine Palms' greater smart grid and PV panels. The intent of all of these demonstrations varies to some degree, but all seek to increase energy security, reduce costs, increase energy efficiency, and improve our understanding of energy storage capabilities under realistic operating conditions.

Although DoD does not have its own Gigafactory, the results of these demonstrations will contribute to the knowledge base from which Tesla and other battery storage manufacturers can draw. Innovative battery technology is transforming the way electricity is stored and used. The quantity of energy generated from renewable sources such as wind or solar has been stymied by a mismatch between the intermittent availability of wind or sunshine and the constant demand for electricity from consumers. Both Tesla and ESTCP understand that solving the battery storage challenge is a critical part of making renewable energy more reliable, integrated, and robust.

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