Tesla’s battery factory, Gigafactory1, is an immense 1.9 million square-foot structure. Not only does it take up a large chunk of real estate in Nevada, its massive footprint is ever-expanding due to a project that has been largely kept under wraps. However, building permits made public last week offer some insight as to the company’s long-term trajectory.
As Electrek reports, the permitting paperwork outlines the basics of the construction taking place inside the battery factory: the expansion of the chiller yard, ad-ons to existing building structures, and the addition of interconnect equipment. But it also reveals the development of a microgrid lab—a fact that industry insiders find especially intriguing.
In March of 2015, Solar City launched a new, all-in-one microgrid service called GridLogic that combines solar generation, batteries, and integration software. The system is designed to rely on Tesla’s Powerpack and Powerwall battery systems. A year and a half after the launch, Tesla purchased SolarCity and a microgrid package was born.
“Microgrid service ensures that any community anywhere in the world vulnerable to power outages and high energy costs—including remote or island communities, hospitals, and military bases—can have dependable, clean power when the grid is down.” SolarCity’s website explains. “GridLogic can operate either in conjunction with or independently of the utility grid.”
Since its purchase of SolarCity, Tesla has undertaken a variety of microgrid projects in American Samoa, Fiji, and Africa that integrate these now in-house technologies. It has deployed microgrids to provide energy independence to areas in need and to demonstrate the value of the product.
For the American Samoa project, Tesla installed a 1.4-Mw solar array and 6-Mwh energy storage battery system with 60 Tesla Powerpacks on the island of Ta’u. The island previously relied on importing and burning 100,000 gallons of fuel each year to produce energy. The new system guarantees electricity for a full three days without sun.
Industry experts explain that the permitting documents likely indicate Tesla’s intention to bridge solar and energy storage technologies commercially in microgrid configurations. The company’s official website states that, “By 2018, the Gigafactory will reach full capacity and produce more Lithium-ion batteries annually than were produced worldwide in 2013.” And it’s now apparent that microgrids technology will be part of that.