Tesla’s Secret Battery Project in Texas Is Surprisingly Covert

by Gabrielle DeSantis

The atrocious response to the winter storm in Texas was yet another example of failing infrastructure letting the most vulnerable people down at the worst possible time. One unexpected solution to these issues may come from Tesla. The company is mostly known for electric cars, but its true ambitions are pitched at a much higher level.

One of the automaker’s subsidiaries recently set up shop in Texas and is developing a renewable energy program that could be very useful in the future. Despite Elon Musk’s love of the spotlight, the work at Gambit Energy Source has been lowkey so far. What is the reason for the silence?

Tesla’s battery project could be a safeguard against national disasters in the future 

In a year full of systemic, large-scale fiascos, the events surrounding the winter storm in Texas were particularly galling. The failure of the state’s power grid, the end result of a lack of oversight from the government, left millions of people scrambling for support in desperate times. It was the type of situation that should never happen, and plans must be put in place to make sure it never happens again. That plan may be coming from Tesla. 

According to a report from Bloomberg Green, a Tesla subsidiary, Gambit Energy Source, is building a 100-megawatt energy storage facility 40 miles south of Houston.

The batteries produced from this facility could serve as renewable energy reserves allowing the stored power to be sold back to the grid operators when demand is high or if there’s a malfunction. This system could produce enough energy to run 20,000 homes on a balmy summer day. 

During the fallout from the storm, Elon Musk took to Twitter to criticize the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), saying that were “not earning that R”: 

Tesla has already made inroads into this industry. It also has a 20-megawatt facility east of Los Angeles and a 100-megawatt unit in Australia. 

Changing the car market is the smallest of Tesla’s concerns

Tesla attempted to keep this new project a secret. On-site workers kept their equipment under cover discouraged onlookers from prying, but the jig was up once the company’s logo was seen on a hard hat and public documents confirmed presumed business connections. 

The attempt at privacy was surprising considering Tesla’s general publicity,  but it’s representative of how its most important business interests are not the ones that get discussed most often. 

Tesla’s mission statement is to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” Its line of vehicles is a means to an end for its battery business. 

Tesla already sells a storage system for residential use (the Powerball) and for utility customers (the Megapack). It also sells solar energy systems both as traditional panels and more subtle solar shingles. 

Elon Musk’s other interests lie in the space race. SpaceX facilities are also being built in Texas, and the company was just awarded a contract to help send astronauts to the moon, according to NASA

Is Tesla a company worth trusting?

The Tesla flagship store in Shanghai, China | Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

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Any company investing in renewable energy should be lauded to some extent, but some caution should be exercised before getting too excited about Tesla’s batteries. 

Tesla’s cars have been criticized for some engineering errors and a general lack of reliability in the past. Making electric cars is a different discipline than making batteries, but those sorts of mistakes are more dangerous when you’re dealing with a power grid. 

There’s also the awkwardness of a for-profit company getting involved with a fundamental utility like energy. If Tesla does get to the point where it has a significant hand in any state’s power grid, then it would be in a position to hold those states hostage when they need electricity. We’ll see how Gambit Energy Source plans to move forward when it fully unveils its plans sometime in the future. 

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