We design and build lithium battery modules, connect them to sensors, write code to control them, deploy them as required, and charge them up with solar.
If you are smart, intellectually curious, respectful of and comfortable working with dangerous things, and interested in having electricity even when the power grid is down, perhaps this site is for you. If not, please go away now. There’s nothing here for you. Boring, boring boring. Good-bye.
Were you in the Northeast during the multi-day blackout of 2003?
I was in downtown New York City, walking across the West Side Highway between the World Trade Center and where the new Goldman Sachs Building now stands, when all of a sudden the traffic lights went out and everyone started honking their horns. I didn’t know it at the time, but in fact, all the lights went out. All of them. Across multiple states.
They stayed out for several days in Manhattan. I had to climb over 30 flights of stairs every time I wanted to leave my apartment, and PS, the water pumps don’t work without power, so even flushing the toilet ground to a halt after the first flush.
The current electrical grid is so old and messy, and such a gigantic target for state-level hackers, everyone should understand what their options are, and start thinking about alternatives.
Even without events such as cyber war, hurricanes, fires (as in California during 2018 that bankrupted PG&E), and other disruptions, it is conceivable that electric utility companies could experience a customer migration similar to what the cable companies are going through now. Granted, electricity seems a bit more complicated than plugging in a box and signing in to Netflix, but when you start digging into it, self-generation of electricity is absurdly simple.
With the supply of lithium batteries growing exponentially, it has never been more feasible to think about generating, storing, and using electricity with absolutely no connections to the grid.
Once you learn how to build, repair, and repurpose lithium batteries that are all around you, a light bulb might quite literally start shining above your head. It’s all up to you.
The reason we suspect an eventual abandonment of the grid by electricity consumers is due to our own experience. Our offices are in a high-rise building. We have solar panels on our balcony that we use to charge up a growing collection of lithium battery packs we’ve built. We also have most of our computers powered by packs that we charge with an array of solar panels inside – hanging like a curtain in our window. Between our small solar array in the window, and the array on our balcony, we are already running computers, office lights, closet and cabinet lights, and a small refrigerator – all with no connection to the grid or the circuit breaker panel, and with no need for permits as we haven’t touched an existing outlet or even scratched the paint anywhere. We still have electrical power from the utility company, but we’re at a point where we’re thinking about disconnecting altogether.
If you do a Google search of “DIY Powerwall”, you will see a whole lot of people doing the exact same thing we’re describing here.
Now a lot of people already have solar panels on their roofs, but if you ask them, you will learn that they lose power when everyone else does. That’s right. Since they don’t have batteries as a part of their system, a safety feature shuts down their solar generation if the other side of the meter isn’t pushing power into the house. So even if the sun is shining as brightly as it can, and even if a house is covered with solar panels, if the local utility drops power to the neighborhood, the solar panels stop working.
But that is changing. The DIY community is ripping lithium batteries out of old laptop computers, welding the cells together, connecting them to solar panels, and running an increasing amount of stuff.
Entrepreneurial companies are starting to offer “energy storage modules” to homeowners and businesses made from welding lots of cells together. New solar installations are being priced with such “storage” modules that keeps the lights on when the neighborhood power goes down and throughout the night.
Neighborhoods and developers are starting to think in terms of neighborhood “micro-grids” that are designed to provide power to the locals in neighborhood collectives who sign up to participate in the program – by agreeing to host an array of solar panels on their roof that feeds into the giant neighborhood battery, with everyone in the collective getting free or nearly free power. You starting to see what we see? Welcome to Grid Vision. We’re blown away by what we see ahead.
Below are 3.7 volt lithium ion batteries referred to as 18650 cells.
These are slightly larger than good old-fashioned “Double A” cells, but they have over twice the capacity. And they can be recharged again and again for 10 years. With proper care they can be used and recharged continually for up to 15 to 20 years. Connect them to solar panels, and suddenly there is no need for the power company or its monthly bill.
Everything from electric bikes to cars, trucks, buses, trains, and even ships are incorporating electric drive systems with batteries.
Numerous automobile companies have announced plans to transition to all-electric fleets in the near future. States and even countries are moving toward renewable energy as a primary source of power.
Companies such as EnSync are creating container-sized batteries for use as the storage platform in their micro grids. They are one of the first to couple solar with battery storage at the homeowner level. Someone like General Electric will eventually buy them up, and make a fortune off their products. Full disclosure: we own a decent amount of their stock. It’s below where we bought it, and it could easily go to zero. So don’t mistake this as a “buy” recommendation. Do your own homework. No one will ever really do it for you.
Energy storage changes everything about our options for powering things. Combine these advances in storage with the rapidly declining cost of solar, and you have an environment perfectly suited for disruption.
And here’s the point we’re really trying to make: There are going to be batteries everywhere. Learn to do something with them other than buy and replace them, and you may just create a cash stream for yourself that a lot of people are willing to make bigger. Learn to build, repair, and repurpose lithium batteries. It’s a hobby that is a skillset in demand.
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