Would You Pay $10,000 to Never Pay an Electricity Bill Again?

Make no mistake; renewables are the future of energy generation. Fossil fuels have helped spur centuries of human innovation that would have otherwise been impossible but they are a finite resource, one that’s taking an incredible toll on our planet. Connecting renewable sources to the current energy distribution grid only solves part of the problem as many renewables simply don’t generate power at all times of the day. However thanks to some recent product innovations this problem can be wholly alleviated and, most interestingly, at a cost that I’m sure many would be able to stomach should they never have to pay a power bill again.

Solar_panels_on_a_roof

Thanks to the various solar incentive schemes that have run both here in Australia and other countries around the world the cost of solar photovoltaic panels has dropped considerably over the past decade. Where you used to be paying on the order of tens of dollars per kilowatt today you can easily source panels for under $1 per kilowatt with the installation cost not being much more than that. Thus what used to cost tens of thousands of dollars can now be had for a much more reasonable cost, something which I’m sure many would include in a new build without breaking a sweat.

The secret sauce to this however comes to us via Tesla.

Back in the early days of many renewable energy incentive programs (and for some lucky countries where this continues) the feed in tariffs were extremely generous, usually multiple times the price of a kilowatt consumed off a grid. This meant that most arrays would completely negate the energy usage of a house, even with only a short period of energy duration. However most of these programs have been phased out or reduced significantly and, for Australia at least, it is now preferable to use energy generated rather than to offset your grid consumption. However the majority of people with solar arrays aren’t using energy during peak times, significantly reducing their ROI. The Tesla Powerwall however shifts that dynamic drastically, allowing them to use their generated power when they most need it.

Your average Australian household uses around 16KW/h worth of electricity every day¬†something which a 4KW photovoltaic system would be able to cover. To ensure that you had that amount of energy on tap at any given moment you’d probably want to invest in both a 10KW and 7KW Powerwall which could both be fully charged during an average day. The cost of such a system, after government rebates, would likely end up in the $10,000 region. Whilst such a system would likely still require a grid connection in order to smooth out the power requirements a little bit (and to sell off any additional energy generated during good days) the monthly power bill would all but disappear. Just going off my current usage the payback time for such a system is just on 6 years, much shorter than the lives of both the panels and the accompanying batteries.

I don’t know about you but that outlay seems like a no-brainer, especially for any newly built house. The cost of such a system is only going to go down with time as more consumers and companies increase their demand for panels and, hopefully, products like the Tesla Powerwall. Going off grid like this used to be in the realms of fantasy and conspiracy theorists but now the technology has been consumerised to the point where it will be soon available to anyone who wants it. If I was running a power company I’d be extremely worried as their industry is about to be heavily disrupted.

3 Comments

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  1. First things first. The cost is closer $20k, after you pay the exchange rate and get it installed with an inverter.
    Next, why settle for $0 ongoing cost? I’m biased, but it is possible to turn a healthy profit from $20k worth of grid connected battery and solar, if you sign up for a service like Reposit Power, which aims for economic utility rather than pure fuctionality.

  2. I’ll be the first to admit I played a little fast a loose with the figures although a 5KW system with the appropriate inverter can be had for just over $4K. The current exchange rate does mean that you lump a hefty premium on top of the Powerwalls (coming out to $8kish) which puts it at closer to $12K which is sans installation costs but you could easily scale that back a little to get much closer to the $10K mark.

    Anything you can do to increase the ROI of an investment like this is most certainly welcome and I’m sure anyone who’s seen the pitiful return on selling home generated solar kilowatts would jump at the opportunity. This post was inspired by numerous conversations I’ve had in the past with people about this and the notion of never paying a power bill again is a powerful motivator. Turning a profit is just icing on the already delicious cake, although I feel when looking at it like that it gets compared to other investment vehicles rather than its intrinsic value as a source of clean power.

  3. I think you hit it on the head – people will be willing to shell out a hefty initial cost I think (granted they’re middle class and above) not just for the economic reason(s), but also for the intrinsic value in such a move. You get to *feel* good about yourself, and you eliminate a recurring nuisance from ever coming up again.

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