LOS ANGELES -- Many Californians who can't afford to own a Tesla electric car may be depending on the company anyway every time they switch on a light.
Tesla Energy was selected to build what it bills as the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world. When completed in Los Angeles, the energy arm of Tesla, still best known for its cars, says it will hold enough electricity to power 2,500 households for a day or charge 1,000 of its sleek vehicles.
CEO Elon Musk announced last year that Tesla was going to get into energy storage in a big way. It not only was going to make home storage units, its Tesla Powerwall, but cater to the utility market. It also has its new battery Gigafactory outside Reno, Nev., that will allow it to produce even more units.
As far back as 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission pointed the way for electric utilities to make greater use of storage. It mandated that investor-owned utilities have a combined target of 1,325 megawatts of energy storage online by 2024.
With the Tesla system having 20 megawatts, there's still a long way to go, it's a start.
Energy systems are important because without it, all burgeoning solar power in the state must be used at the time it is generated. That, however, may not be the moment when it is most needed. By sending power to the batteries instead, the power can be discharged when the sun isn't shining or when demand in peaking in the hot, late-afternoons when air-conditioning units are going full blast.
The Tesla batteries will be built at a substation of the region's main investor-owned utility, Southern California Edison.