11 home batteries that rival Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 – Danielle Muoio

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is looking to disrupt renewable energy.

Musk unveiled the new version of its at-home battery, Powerwall 2.0, on Friday night. The battery comes with technical and design improvements from its predecessor, but it also speaks to Tesla’s larger vision for energy. Musk wants to bring solar installation and battery installation, two processes that inherently rely on each other, together as one simple, integrated process.

Part of that vision involves Tesla merging with SolarCity, a controversial deal worth $2.6 billion, which shareholders will vote on November 17.

At-home batteries can store electricity generated by solar panels and draw electricity from the utility grid when rates are low to store for later use. They also provide homeowners with backup power in the event of an outage.

But Tesla isn’t the only company offering an at-home battery solution.

Here’s a closer look at Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 and its competition.

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1. Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 is a 269-pound lithium ion battery that you can mount on your wall. Panasonic makes the cells for the battery, while Tesla builds the battery module and pack. The whole thing costs $5,500, including the inverter, and stores 13.5 kWh of energy.

1. Tesla's Powerwall 2.0 is a 269-pound lithium ion battery that you can mount on your wall. Panasonic makes the cells for the battery, while Tesla builds the battery module and pack. The whole thing costs $5,500, including the inverter, and stores 13.5 kWh of energy.

Screenshot via Tesla

For reference, the average person uses 30 kWh of power a day.

2. The LG Chem RESU battery is probably Tesla’s closest competitor in the space. LG Chem announced just last week it would bring its battery option to the US through a partnership with rooftop solar company Sunrun. That would make the RESU available to Sunrun customers and its products distribution arm — a similar strategy to making the Powerwall available to SolarCity customers.

2. The LG Chem RESU battery is probably Tesla's closest competitor in the space. LG Chem announced just last week it would bring its battery option to the US through a partnership with rooftop solar company Sunrun. That would make the RESU available to Sunrun customers and its products distribution arm — a similar strategy to making the Powerwall available to SolarCity customers.

LG Chem

You can read more about LG Chem’s Sunrun partnership here.

LG Chem’s battery holds 6.5 kWh of energy and costs roughly $4,000, but the inverter is sold separately. That price also doesn’t factor the cost of installation. Still, the RESU is pretty close to the Powerwall in terms of pricing and will enter the US market at around the same time as Powerwall 2.0.

3. Start-up Orison offers a 40-pound at-home battery. That’s significantly lighter than Tesla’s Powerwall, but it only holds 2.2 kWh of energy. One Orison unit costs $1,600.

3. Start-up Orison offers a 40-pound at-home battery. That's significantly lighter than Tesla's Powerwall, but it only holds 2.2 kWh of energy. One Orison unit costs $1,600.

Orison

However, unlike Tesla’s battery, you don’t need a trained electrician to install Orison. Orison’s product comes in the form of a flat wall panel or as a lamp-like unit seen below. You can combine panels or use several standing units to increase storage.

However, unlike Tesla's battery, you don't need a trained electrician to install Orison. Orison's product comes in the form of a flat wall panel or as a lamp-like unit seen below. You can combine panels or use several standing units to increase storage.

Orison

You can reserve an Orison at-home battery on the start-up’s website.

4. Sonnen, a German company, sells several at-home battery options with up to 16 kWh of storage. The eco compact version pictured here holds 4 kWh of energy and costs $5,950. It comes with the inverter included.

4. Sonnen, a German company, sells several at-home battery options with up to 16 kWh of storage. The eco compact version pictured here holds 4 kWh of energy and costs $5,950. It comes with the inverter included.

sonnenBatterie

Sonnen recently raised $85 million to expand in Italy, Australia, the United States, and Britain. The company has sold more than 15,000 battery packs and currently derives two-thirds of its revenue from its German operations. But the company is looking to increase its revenue share abroad in the next year.

Sonnen recently raised $85 million to expand in Italy, Australia, the United States, and Britain. The company has sold more than 15,000 battery packs and currently derives two-thirds of its revenue from its German operations. But the company is looking to increase its revenue share abroad in the next year.

sonnenBatterie

Source: Financial Times

5. SimpliPhi Power is an at-home battery maker that’s been around since 2002, but its original name was LibertyPak Company. SimpliPhi offers several battery options, the largest of which stores 3.4 kWh of energy.

5. SimpliPhi Power is an at-home battery maker that's been around since 2002, but its original name was LibertyPak Company. SimpliPhi offers several battery options, the largest of which stores 3.4 kWh of energy.

SimpliPhi

SimpliPhi’s batteries can be combined to make a battery pack as large as you need. SimpliPhi does not publicly disclose pricing information.

SimpliPhi's batteries can be combined to make a battery pack as large as you need. SimpliPhi does not publicly disclose pricing information.

SimpliPhi

6. Sunverge offers battery systems providing anywhere from 6 kWh to 23 kWh of energy storage. Weighing around 500 pounds, the battery has to be installed by a trained Sunverge specialist.

6. Sunverge offers battery systems providing anywhere from 6 kWh to 23 kWh of energy storage. Weighing around 500 pounds, the battery has to be installed by a trained Sunverge specialist.

Sunverge

Sunverge comes with a corresponding app so you can monitor your solar energy storage and see electric grid costs at different times. A Sunverge unit can cost between $8,000 and $20,000, depending on the size you get.

Sunverge comes with a corresponding app so you can monitor your solar energy storage and see electric grid costs at different times. A Sunverge unit can cost between $8,000 and $20,000, depending on the size you get.

Sunverge

7. Powervault is an at-home battery system that is only available in the UK. All units come with an inverter included, and the most powerful model stores 6.6 kWh of energy. Prices start at roughly $3,000. Like Tesla’s Powerwall, the Powervault must be installed by a trained electrician.

7. Powervault is an at-home battery system that is only available in the UK. All units come with an inverter included, and the most powerful model stores 6.6 kWh of energy. Prices start at roughly $3,000. Like Tesla's Powerwall, the Powervault must be installed by a trained electrician.

Powervault

8. Mercedes sells an at-home battery in Germany and Australia. Each unit stores 2.5 kWh of energy, but you can combine eight units for 20 kWh of storage. An inverter is not included with Mercedes’ home battery.

8. Mercedes sells an at-home battery in Germany and Australia. Each unit stores 2.5 kWh of energy, but you can combine eight units for 20 kWh of storage. An inverter is not included with Mercedes' home battery.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes says the price of the battery, installation, and inverter for a standard family home costs between $9,000 and $10,000. You can track energy storage on the corresponding app seen below.

Mercedes says the price of the battery, installation, and inverter for a standard family home costs between $9,000 and $10,000. You can track energy storage on the corresponding app seen below.

Mercedes-Benz

9. ElectrIQ is creating a battery for US homes that stores 10 kWh of energy and will be available before the end of the year. Its retail price is $13,000 and includes the price of an inverter. The battery needs to be installed by a trained electrician.

9. ElectrIQ is creating a battery for US homes that stores 10 kWh of energy and will be available before the end of the year. Its retail price is $13,000 and includes the price of an inverter. The battery needs to be installed by a trained electrician.

electrIQ

10. Panasonic’s at-home battery can store 8 kWh of energy. It’s currently available in Australia, but Panasonic plans to roll out the battery in Europe. It’s worth noting that Panasonic also makes the cells for Tesla’s at-home battery.

10. Panasonic's at-home battery can store 8 kWh of energy. It's currently available in Australia, but Panasonic plans to roll out the battery in Europe. It's worth noting that Panasonic also makes the cells for Tesla's at-home battery.

Panasonic

Source: Clean Technica

Panasonic’s battery weighs about 185 pounds, but the cost of a unit is not made readily available.

Panasonic's battery weighs about 185 pounds, but the cost of a unit is not made readily available.

Panasonic

Panasonic did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on pricing.

11. Nissan offers a rechargeable battery option, called XStorage, which holds 4.2 kWh of energy storage. The automaker began taking pre-orders in September, but the battery is only available in Europe.

11. Nissan offers a rechargeable battery option, called XStorage, which holds 4.2 kWh of energy storage. The automaker began taking pre-orders in September, but the battery is only available in Europe.

Nissan

Nissan’s xStorage battery costs $4,500, which includes the price of installation. Nissan is looking to set itself apart as a sustainable battery provider by using old battery cells in the units.

Nissan's xStorage battery costs $4,500, which includes the price of installation. Nissan is looking to set itself apart as a sustainable battery provider by using old battery cells in the units.

Nissan

12. BMW offers a 6.4 kWh at-home battery option, but doesn’t provide a price for the unit. Like Nissan, BMW is taking a sustainable approach by reusing batteries from its BMW i3 series. BMW plans to eventually offer two units that can store 22 kWh and 33 kWh.

12. BMW offers a 6.4 kWh at-home battery option, but doesn't provide a price for the unit. Like Nissan, BMW is taking a sustainable approach by reusing batteries from its BMW i3 series. BMW plans to eventually offer two units that can store 22 kWh and 33 kWh.

Here’s How Much Tesla’s New Solar Roof Could Cost – Daniel DiClerico

Can you really install a solar roof on your home that would cost about as much—or even less—than a regular roof? That’s the claim Tesla CEO Elon Musk made Friday when he announced plans to create Solar Roof tiles that will “look better than a normal roof, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation, and actually have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity.”

Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles would be made of glass over a photovoltaic substrate. Unlike aftermarket solar panels, they stand in for traditional roofing materials and look like the real thing from the ground.

That’s an important distinction, aimed squarely at one of the hurdles to the wider adoption of solar: the questionable aesthetics of those black silicon panels. Tesla unveiled four styles: smooth glass tile, textured glass tile, Tuscan glass tile, and slate glass tile.

“People like the idea of being energy efficient, but solar panels can be an eyesore,” says Giovanni Bozzolo, a partner at Roof4Less roofing in Seattle, Wash. “To be able to combine the energy savings with aesthetics would be a very big thing in the industry. But the pricing has to be right.”

Musk didn’t provide specifics on how much the tiles will cost, and a company spokeswoman told Consumer Reports, “we haven’t released details on pricing” when we followed up.

That begs the question: What will the Tesla Solar Roof have to cost in order to be the no-brainer proposition Musk describes?

We’ve run some numbers and determined that a textured glass tile Solar Roof should cost no more than $73,500, installed, to be competitive with an asphalt roof.

How We Did the Math

To get there, we pulled together ballpark pricing for the various roofing materials Tesla’s solar shingles mimic, from sources like the Slate Roofing Contractors Association, the Tile Roofing Institute, and the Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report.

There are plenty of variables, of course, including the location of the home and shape and height of the roof. (And we’re leaving out any consideration of solar rebates and incentives.) But here’s what the installed costs look like for the roughly 3,000 square feet of roofing needed to cover an average size home in the U.S.

Clay Tile: $16,000
Asphalt: $20,000
Slate: $45,000

So how could a $73,500 roof be considered cost-competitive with a $20,000 asphalt roof? To compensate for the proposed added value of the “free” electricity from Tesla’s roof, we added in $2,000 a year, over the lifespan of the roof. That’s a typical electric bill in states where solar is big, like California, Texas, and North Carolina.

Tesla says the life expectancy of its tiles will be 30 years. So that adds $60,000 to the value of the roof. (Our rough estimate assumes our hypothetical Solar Roof homes generate exactly as much electricity as they use.)

One final factor: the Tesla Solar Roof will work like any rooftop solar system, connecting to your home’s electric panel through an inverter. You could stop there, but the system is being packaged alongside Tesla’s forthcoming Powerwall 2.0, a battery storage device with a built-in inverter and an installed cost of $6,500. Combining Solar Roof and Powerwall 2.0, Musk promises, will power an entire home with 100 percent renewable energy.

The easy way to factor in the cost of a Powerwall to our roofing calculation is to subtract it from the value of the electricity over the life of the roof. So $60,000 worth of electricity becomes $53,500. (Though we should note that the warranty of the Powerwall 2.0 is 10 years, so you would most likely need to replace it more than once over the life of the shingles).

So put all that together, and here’s how Tesla would need to price its tiles to meet Musk’s claims.

Tuscan Tile (Tesla’s equivalant of clay tile) would need to cost less than $69,500, installed (or about $2,300 per 100 square feet), to beat its traditional counterpart;
Smooth and Textured Tile (Tesla’s equivalent to asphalt tile) would need to cost less than $73,500, installed (or about $2,450 per 100 square feet);
Slate Tile would need to cost less than $98,500 (or about $3,300 per 100 square feet).

Thinking of going solar?

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Bottom line: For sure, $70,000 to $100,000 is a lot to spend on a roof. If Tesla’s roofing tiles end up priced that high, it will be because consumers will essentially be paying for long-term electricity costs up front, according to Musk’s formula. And even if Solar Roof products cost less than our estimates, it will most certainly be initially aimed at the luxury home market.

Natural slate may be the easiest alternative for Tesla to beat from a pricing perspective, since its expense is largely due to the fact that the material is very heavy and hard to work with. If the Tesla slate is lightweight and easy to install, it could be a cost-effective option.

But that’s a big if. “Roofers aren’t electricians and vice versa, so I’m most interested in seeing how the costs of labor affect the end price to consumers,” says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage, an online marketplace of solar installers.

No word from Tesla on whether it will back its Solar Roof like some installers do slate—with a 100-year warranty. Or stick with a more typical 25-year warranty.

Musk ended his announcement at Universal Studios in Los Angeles by asking: “So, why would you buy anything else?” The question was rhetorical, obviously, but the answer will have a lot to do with price.

Tesla’s Price Shock: Solar + Battery as cheap as grid power -Bruce Mountain

Last week, Tesla launched their Powerwall 2.0 residential battery storage system, a little less than a year after Powerwall 1.0.

Compared to Powerwall 1.0, peak power has increased by 40 per cent, continuous power by 50 per cent, storage capacity by 100 per cent (to 14 kWh) and an inverter is included. And all this for US$5,500 ($A8,800) – about the same price as Powerwall 1.0.

In other words, the price per kWh stored and re-used has halved in less than a year. Indicative installed prices in Australia are a little over $10,000. The commonly accepted wisdom was that battery costs would decline more gradually than the precipitate decline seen in solar PV costs. This has been proved wrong.

Let’s do a solar PV+battery+grid versus grid-only price comparison.

First, let’s assume a 4,800kWh per year household in Adelaide and that its electricity bill is either the average of all 77 market offers after all conditional discounts, or the average of all 77 Market Offers before all conditional discounts, from the 16 retailers operating in Adelaide (data from MarkIntell).

For solar PV, let’s take the median installed price of a 5kW system (data from Solar Choice) and let’s assume a 20 year life with zero residual and 20% purchase premium for on-going maintenance. For battery, let’s take the indicative installed price ($A10,300) and assume a 10 year life with zero residual.

Let’s also assume an operating regime that sets the daily household consumption against solar PV production and battery storage as far as possible. This results in 8,373 kWh per year solar production, 200kWh of grid purchases and 3,773kWh per year of solar PV export to the grid.

Putting this together and annuitising the capital items at 2 per cent real (the typical mortgage rate), we get the result shown in the chart below: PV+battery+grid is level-pegging with the average grid-only Market Offer (after conditional discounts) and cheaper than the average grid-only Market Offer (before conditional discounts).

bruce mountain solar plus storage

This is astounding.

A typical household in the suburbs of Adelaide can now meet its electrical needs with solar and battery storage for about the same amount they would pay on a competitive offer from the grid.

And no need to worry about black outs or bill shock: for an outlay of around $16k and assuming a suitable roof, consumers will be able to reduce their grid bill to almost nothing (revenue from surplus PV exports paying for the grid fixed charge plus the little energy bought from the grid to cover rainy days). And the set-up more than pays its way.

Of course one can argue with any of the assumptions I have made, but they seem plausible to me and the calculation itself is not tricky.

Electricity in Australia is deeply interesting at the moment. Of all the fascinating issues competing for attention, this tops my list.

It has obviously profound implications for consumers, PV and battery producers and installers, electricity retailers, centrally dispatched generators, network service providers, market operators, regulators and governments.

The strategic and commercial implications are marvellous or frightening, depending on your vested interest. It’s worthwhile studying this carefully.

Bruce Mountain is the Director of CME and co-founder of MarkIntell.

Update: The chart below has been updated to include GST on electricity purchases, which the first chart did not.

As the author writes: “The initial chart had included General Sales Tax on battery and PV but not on electricity purchases. The revised chart accounts for the fact that the majority of households will not be able to deduct GST on their electricity purchases. By properly account for taxes in this way, the gap between PV+battery+grid versus grid-only is larger than initially calculated.”

Tesla Installation

Randy for RCE Electric did a fantastic job. He came out within 24 hours of contacting him and his pricing was fair. I would highly recommend him!

 

 

Michael Keller

This New York Project Fuses Energy Microgrids With Blockchain Technology

DAVID LUMB 05.01.16 2:22 PM
If in the future you find yourself selling your excess solar panel energy to your neighbor via secure blockchain, you’ll have one startup’s actions on President Street in Brooklyn to thank. That’s where experimental microgrid provider TransActive Grid has posted its first two TransActive Grid Element meters inside residential units so that residents can exchange energy via a nascent blockchain marketplace. They’ve already made it a reality: Early last month, two Brooklyn residents completed the first peer-to-peer energy exchange, swapping watts for U.S. dollars.

TransActive Grid isn’t setting out to topple utility monopolies; rather, the joint venture between LO3 Energy and blockchain tech company ConsenSys is building out microgrids as a proof-of-concept project. Indeed, LO3 is actively chatting with utilities to explore how microgrids can fit in the future of energy grids, says LO3 founder and principal Lawrence Orsini.

That future involves a potent reckoning for energy utilities, believes Orsini, as tech advances and less restrictive energy laws loosen the iron grip utilities have on controlling energy exchange. Microgrids are small, local grids that can isolate themselves and break away from the main grid, either in the event of an emergency (say, the next Hurricane Sandy) or to handle energy exchange on a peer-to-peer level.

People can already legally exchange energy—it happens every time you sign up for Green Mountain Energy or a similar eco-friendly energy provider and contract to buy their energy. Technically speaking, you’re buying their energy credits (known as renewable energy certificates). Odds are, your home appliances are still using the electricity produced by a local natural gas or coal plant, but paying for renewable energy certificates places orders for more energy from renewable sources, which means natural gas and coal plants should produce proportionately less energy.

A microgrid using TransActive Grid’s model, on the other hand, could let you directly sell the energy generated from your rooftop solar panels (or wind farm, or biogas plant) to your neighbor. No, put your checkbook or Venmo app away. Tomorrow’s microgrid uses tomorrow’s exchange mechanics—namely, a secure P2P exchange via blockchain. That’s where ConsenSys comes in.

TransActive Grid’s exchange is built on ConsenSys’s blockchain tech. Specifically, it uses Ethereum, ConsenSys’s blockchain platform that it uses to build decentralized applications. Most people use banks and financial institutions as middlemen to guarantee that their money goes only where they want it to. The blockchain concept provides that level of security, claims ConsenSys (to learn more about how a blockchain provides security via its distributed ledger model using bitcoin as an example, watch this excellent video).

LO3 deployed two of its TransActive Grid Element devices, which mount next to a residential apartment building’s utility meter, track energy moving from energy collectors on the building (e.g., solar panels) into the greater energy grid, and register that on the blockchain. They have been installed in two buildings on President Street in Brooklyn.

Even then, that locally grown energy might end up being more expensive than the energy produced in bulk at a power plant. People already switch to Green Mountain and other renewable energy sources, so it’s not a big stretch to imagine the value of buying local energy. For one thing, it’s an opportunity for the consumer to choose where their energy comes from. But until energy regulations change in U.S. states, those purchases will have to happen outside the energy grid.

“New York in the very near future is probably going to allow peer-to-peer transactions,” says Orsini. “You can pay anybody anything you want for whatever they have. It’s not a transaction across the utility grid, it’s happening above the utility grid between people. Until the policy changes, you’re not going to be able to transact that through a utility grid.”

“It’s not a transaction across the utility grid, it’s happening above the utility grid between people.”
The utility grid has other problems besides regulation and infrastructure—namely, security. The U.S. Department of Energy was cyberattacked 1,131 times from 2010 to 2014 and hackers successfully compromised the DOE’s network in 159 of those attempts, with 53 of those successes resulting in “root compromises” that essentially gave hackers administrative access to DOE networks. Cyberattacks aren’t limited to the U.S.: A Ukrainian power grid was hacked last December, shutting down power for 80,000 people for three hours. It’s not just direct attacks targeting infrastructure either, as the Israel Electric Authority suffered an attempted ransomware attack back in January that entered their system through a simple phishing email.

For now, TransActive Grid’s blockchain simply cryptographically secures transactions and exchange of goods—in this case, energy. Energy grid and utility security is a different beast entirely, and blockchain won’t directly solve the hacking vulnerabilities mentioned above, but at least TransActive Grid’s energy transactions would not conceivably add new vulnerabilities to an existing utility.

But Orsini believes that as more progressive energy laws are passed and microgrids edge into existence alongside traditional utilities, those utilities will adapt to the microgrid model. The forward-looking ones, anyway.

“There’s an opportunity for them to evolve their business models to include blockchain. There is a whole spectrum of utilities, ones that are aggressive and see where the markets are going all the way to ones that are going to have to be regulated out of existence or regulated into new business models,” says Orsini. “The progressive utilities that are looking at how this market is going to evolve are looking at how they are going to participate in a distributed energy economy—those are the ones that are going to be interested in something like this. This is an evolution of the utility market.”

“This is an evolution of the utility market.”
Microgrids aren’t a new concept, but remain restricted by state regulations regarding who can handle and sell energy: In most states, this agency is dominated by a few energy monoliths. But a few states like New York, California, and Texas have passed progressive energy legislation that have paved the way for introductory debate on microgrids, like a recent town hall discussion in New Paltz, New York and microgrid feasibility research in Warwick, New York. But they’re still in a research phase, while TransActive Grid is live.

Now it’s a matter of testing how TransActive Grid’s system works out, technologically and socially, before they expand into other buildings in Brooklyn. Building out a real business model is a ways off: For now, TransActive Grid is working out the logistical kinks of people trading energy, one watt at a time.

The Tesla Model 3’s design breaks a lot of rules – Mathew Debord and Mike Nudelman

BI Graphics

Tesla unveiled its mass-market Model 3 in March 31 in Los Angeles. We knew that the car would be smaller than the Model S and the Model X, and we could make a few assumptions about the general design, given that Teslas are supposed to look like, well, Teslas.

But when CEO Elon Musk finally rolled out the car, there were some definite surprises, from bumper to bumper.

The design of the Model 3 could of course change before its hits the streets in 2017 (if it hits the streets on schedule). What we saw in LA was a pre-production version of the car. But for the most part, Tesla’s “concepts” have entered production more-or-less unaltered.

The Model 3, shown first as a sedan, has some controversial features. But it also has some cool and even spectacular ones. It’s a dramatically minimalist, all-electric car, and it appears to be something that quite a full people would like to put in their garage: over 325,000 pre-orders, at $1,000 a pop, have come in,

INSIDE THE NFL’S MOST TECHNOLOGICALLY AND ARCHITECTURALLY ADVANCED STADIUM – Adam Raymond

In early March, the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium, named in honor of legendary head coach U.S. Bank, is a dusty bowl of activity. The field where Teddy Bridgewater will try to lead the team back to the playoffs is covered in dirt. The concourses where fans will impatiently wait for beer are barren. The 66,200 purple seats where those same fans will plant their warm, dry asses—not to be taken for granted at a Midwest football game—are covered in giant sheets of plastic. This $1.1 billion behemoth is only four months away from its grand opening and there’s a lot of work to do.

By the time U.S. Bank Stadium opens in July for Luke Bryan’s country boy jamboree, it’ll look a gleaming palace in Minneapolis’ desolate Downtown East. But the real achievements will be less visible in this high-tech playground that promises to make other NFL stadiums look like abandoned livestock arenas. From roof to field, the Vikings new home will be an architectural and technological marvel meant to attract attention and attendees from around the world.

But on this uncharacteristically balmy late-winter day, it’s still got a ways to go. The stadium is an active construction site, which is why the writers touring it are playing dress up with protective glasses, yellow vests and hard hats. The headgear is shiny and purple with a Viking horn on either side, a stark contrast from the union stickers and deep scratches on the hats of the men and women working here. Even with the work left, about 10 perfect we’re told, the team is ready to show it off. And it should be; this place is an impressive sight—especially if you know where to look.

U.S. Bank Stadium in March, under construction. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings) 
U.S. Bank Stadium in March, under construction. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
Up is a good place to start. Like the Metrodome, the drab arena torn down in 2014 to make way for the new stadium, there’s a roof on this cavernous building. Unlike the Metrodome, this place lets you see the sky. That’s because sixty percent of the stadium is covered with a transparent plastic called Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE.

Designed by Dupont for use in industrial aeronautics, ETFE has become a trendy roofing material around the world. The lightweight, tear-resistant film can be found atop Beijing’s Watercube and Munich’s Allianz Arena. U.S. Bank is the first American stadium to use it on this scale and the effect is dramatic. Even with the sun hidden in the clouds, the stadium bowl is illuminated with natural light and protected from the natural elements. In a city that barely gets above 40 degrees five months of out the year, that’s a big deal.

A rendering shows sunlight passing thorough the ETFE roof and glass walls on the stadium’s west side. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
A rendering shows sunlight passing thorough the ETFE roof and glass walls on the stadium’s west side. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
Especially since the stadium will be used for much more than football. The Vikings, in a best-case-scenario, would need it 12 days out of the year. Football games can be held outside but the civic and community events that will eventually be on the same floor can not. A dome will also allow Minneapolis to host the Super Bowl in 2018 and the Final Four the year later. Attracting marquee events and opening the doors to more than Vikings fans is an important part of justifying the eye-popping $500 million public money poured into its construction.

U.S. Bank Stadium will be used for all kinds of events, including motocross, which will definitely not attract this many fans. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
U.S. Bank Stadium will be used for all kinds of events, including motocross, which will definitely not attract this many fans. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
If the roof is the architectural headliner here, its five giant glass doors, ranging from 75 feet to 95 feet tall, are a damn good opening act. Even when they’re closed, as they were during the tour, these doors do a lot to eliminate the confined airplane hanger feeling you’ll find in most domes. But when these 57,000-pound beasts open up, we’re told, it’ll truly feel like you’re outdoors. Something like playing football in your garage with the door up.

“The ETFE roof gives fans the best of both worlds” the team claims in press material, “an outdoor experience in a climate controlled environment.”

What U.S. Bank Stadium’s giant glass doors will look like when they’re open on game day. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
What U.S. Bank Stadium’s giant glass doors will look like when they’re open on game day. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
One demographic that may not appreciate these oversized windows is Minneapolis’ avian community. Animal rights activists have crowed about birds colliding with the glass, calling the stadium a “death trap.” A slight exaggeration perhaps ,but there’s little doubt some dumb birds will kill themselves by slamming their skulls into the giants panes of glass. The question is how many and what should be done about it. One high-tech idea—what other kind would there be?—is to cover the stadium’s 200,000-square-feet of glass with an infrared film designed by Minneapolis’ own 3M. Invisible to the human eye, the film would serve as a giant warning sign to birds.

Back inside the stadium, we wind our way through through tunnels and into luxury boxes, catching a glimpse at a club level where wealthy fans can cloister themselves off from the hot dog-breathed masses. In here it’s easy to forget about architectural grandeur and one assumes that’s just what fans will do. The in-stadium experience will be on their mind and more and more, that means getting online.

The Vikings have given a lot of thought to the internet. So much thought that you’d be excused for thinking the team’s expecting you to look at your phone more than the field. Not so, says John Penhollow, VP of corporate and technology partnerships .

“We accept that fans are going to be on their phones. Our hope is that when they look at them, they work,” Penhollow says. To that end, the stadium will be equipped with around 1,300 internet access points installed in clamshells that will be affixed to hand rials. This, Penhollow insists, will allow the 30,000 fans expected to get online at each game to do so without trouble. It better. The system can also be supercharged for major events like the Super Bowl, allowing as many as 70,000 people to simultaneously tweets complain about the halftime show.

A rendering, obviously, because in real life all these people would be on their phones. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
A rendering, obviously, because in real life all these people would be on their phones. (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)
Surprising as it is, a reliable internet connection is a rare commodity in today’s stadiums. The Vikings are planning to take advantage of theirs by encouraging fans to get online, whether it’s to check their team in the fantasy lounge or to navigate the stadium with the team’s app. Designed by Bay Area-based VenueNext, the app will guide fans to and through the stadium, delivering information on traffic, parking, concession lines and bathroom occupancy. It will also communicate with beacons to provide location-specific notifications on things like sales at that team store you didn’t realize you were passing.

But if you think the app only exists to serve the fans, you don’t know how corporations use technology. As Vikings SMO Steve LaCroix explained, the app will also help the team track who comes to game. He proposed a hypothetical in which a fan attends eight games a year but buys all his tickets on StubHub or Craigslist. “We never knew who was really in each seat. The app helps gather information,” he says.

What will the team do with this information? Find that fan and try to sell him season tickets, of course. In a sense, it’s this aspect of the Vikings technological evolution that puts it closest to the cutting edge. There’s no better way to emulate America’s most successful tech companies than collecting information on your users and then trying to sell them something.

Vikings win? (Photo: Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)

Desk-Size Turbine Could Power a Town – David Talbot

The unit is driven by “supercritical carbon dioxide,” which is in a state that at very high pressure and up to 700 °C exists as neither a liquid nor a gas. After the carbon dioxide passes through the turbine, it’s cooled and then repressurized before returning for another pass.
The unit’s compact size and ability to turn on and off rapidly could make it useful in grid storage. It’s about one-tenth the size of a steam turbine of comparable output, and has the potential to be 50 percent efficient at turning heat into electricity. Steam-based systems are typically in the mid-40 percent range; the improvement is achieved because of the better heat-transfer properties and reduced need for compression in a system that uses supercritical carbon dioxide compared to one that uses steam. The GE prototype is 10 megawatts, but the company hopes to scale it to 33 megawatts.

Doug Hofer, a GE engineer in charge of the project, shows off a model of the turbine.
In addition to being more efficient, the technology could be more nimble—in a grid-storage scenario, heat from solar energy, nuclear power, or combustion could first be stored as molten salt and the heat later used to drive the process.
While such a heat reservoir could also be used to boil water to power a steam turbine, a steam system could take 30 minutes to get cranked up, while a carbon dioxide turbine might take only a minute or two—making it well-suited for on-the-spot power generation needed during peak demand periods.
GE’s system might also be better than huge arrays of batteries. Adding more hours of operation just means having a larger or hotter reservoir of the molten salt, rather than adding additional arrays of giant batteries. “The key thing will come down to economics,” says Doug Hofer, the GE engineer in charge of the project. While there’s work ahead, he says, “at this point we think our economic story is favorable compared to batteries.”

The Netherlands Will Ban New Gasoline-Powered Vehicles By 2025 – Charlie Sorrel

All Images: expose via Shutterstock

CHARLIE SORREL 04.11.16 2:28 PM
We’re used to radical transportation policies in the Netherlands, but this goes a step further than most anything we’ve seen: Starting in 2025, people there will no longer be able to buy a gasoline or diesel-powered car—even if they want to. By law, only zero-emissions vehicles will be on sale.

There is dissent from the political opposition over this plan, but it’s surprisingly low-key, given what—in bureaucratic terms—is an incredibly short time frame. Imagine somebody trying this in the U.S.

Steve Photography via Shutterstock
The law will be easier to implement considering current the popularity of walking, cycling, and electric vehicles in the country.

According to Inside EVs, 43,000 new plug-in electric cars were purchased in the Netherlands in 2015. Overall, 450,000 new cars were registered which, says the article’s author Jay Cole, gives plug-ins a 9.6% market share. And in the Netherlands, 31% of people there use the bike as their primary mode of transport, with 27% of all trips (not just urban trips) made by bike. Public transport is at 11%, and 49% of people still use cars as their main mode of transport.

The Netherlands seems bent on unhooking itself from the oil teat, and if this new policy works, it will hasten that goal. And there may even be a nice side effect. If there are sectors still not served by electric vehicles by the time the ban comes into effect in 2025, the second-hand market in trucks might bloom. Then again, maybe all goods vehicles will be driverless by then.

One dramatic chart shows why electric cars are about to become mainstream

One of the most expensive parts — if not the most expensive part — of an electric car is its battery.

So when car companies are able to make batteries cheap enough to put electric vehicles (EV) on par cost-wise with gas ones, they’ll finally have a chance to mainstream.

Well, we’re just about there.

Researchers estimate that once EV batteries cost $150 per kilowatt hour (kWh), they’ll be cost-competitive with gas vehicles. For context, a fully-charged Tesla Model S 90D can go about 270 miles on its 85 kWh battery, according to the company.

EV batteries have dramatically dropped in price over the last five years, according to the United Nations-backed report, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016, released March 24.

In 2010, the global average was $1,000 per kWh. By last year, it had fallen to $350 per kWh.

You can see the incredible change in this chart from the report, with a dramatic drop in cost between 2014 and 2015:

ev battery costs
Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016

“[The cost declines] reflect improvements in battery chemistry and in manufacturing processes, economies of scale as factories get larger, and aggressive pricing by large battery makers looking to defend market share,” the authors write.

You can see the effects these declines are having on electric cars coming to market today, too.

Bolt EVAaron Brown/Tech Insider
The Chevy Bolt.

Tesla’s highly anticipated Model 3 will be priced at about $35,000. And the Chevy Bolt, expected for late 2016, will cost $30,000.

Consumers are already responding to these price drops.

In 2015, 462,000 people around the world bought electric cars, according to the report — up 59% from the year before.

If batteries keep decreasing in price at this rate, a report from Argonne National Laboratory predicts that electric cars will make up 58% of the light vehicle market by 2030. And by then, non-hybrid gas cars will comprise less than one-fourth of the market.

Hopefully in the next decade or so we’ll adopt even more renewable energy to charge these cars with, so they can displace even more carbon emissions than they already do.

Right now, electric cars are on the verge of going mainstream. Charging stations are proliferating (though not yet quickly enough). As EV batteries keep dropping in price and electric cars get cheaper, more and more people will decide an electric car is the choice for them — so we’d better build out the infrastructure needed to keep them charged.