Eduardo Mejia thinks Tesla batteries, recently approved for residential buildings in Cayman, could help change the renewable energy market on the island.
Mejia, a quality control inspector for Tesla, who is based in Puerto Rico, spent Tuesday overseeing the installation of the first two Tesla batteries to be placed in a home here, where they will supplement an existing solar power system.
During the day, the solar cells not only provide power to the five-bedroom home in Grand Harbour, but will also charge the batteries. Once the sun goes down, the batteries will keep the property powered through the night.
And it may even have some power left over.
That excess will go back into the Cayman Utilities Company system. Kerby Powell, a master electrician with GreenTech Solar, believes that as more such systems are added to homes and businesses across the island, they may help keep the lights on in other homes during a crisis, such as a hurricane.
“If there comes an event where people are using a lot of energy, what [CUC] can say is ‘I need more power back to the grid,’” Mejia said. It could potentially tap into the excess being created by homes with solar and battery systems, “and all these homes become like a micro grid”.
Whether or not that actually happens, Allan Holdsworth said he is expecting to enjoy energy security.
“I will never be without power in my lifetime,” Holdsworth said, sitting in his canalfront home while Mejia, a Tesla electrician and a crew of GreenTech Solar workers installed the coffee table-sized batteries on the upper wall of his garage.
Holdsworth said the solar panels on the home, where he has lived since February 2018, provide more than enough power during the day. Enough, he said, so that the credit he receives from CUC for the excess that goes into the grid, more than covers the CUC electricity he uses during the night.
“We’ve never had a bill,” Holdsworth said, referring to himself and his partner Javier Bustos. “The batteries are primarily for when the power goes out or when we have a hurricane.”
He’s confident that in such situations, the lights will still be on in his home.
In addition to survival security, he said, the system also fits with his efforts to live “as green as possible”.
His home is heavily insulated, the retired former Vancouver Island resident said. He also contributes to green organisations, such as Plastic Free Cayman. His next step, he said, is to invest in an electric-powered car and truck.
“I definitely want to get the electric vehicles, for sure,” he said. “With all my excess electricity, I want to use it on the vehicles.”
The Tesla batteries cost about US$12,000 a piece, Holdsworth said, and took about six months to get. That delay, said GreenTech’s Powell, was largely due to getting regulatory approval through Cayman’s planning commission. Now that those regulations are in place, filling orders will be much faster, he said.
In fact, Richard Harrison, GreenTech Solar’s CEO, said the company has a number of other residential customers lined up for installations. He said 31 of the batteries will be arriving on the island within days and he has 80 more on order that should be here in a month’s time.
There is also a commercial-sized battery that some local developments, hotels and supermarkets have already shown an interest in, he said, adding that he expects market demand to grow.
And, in addition to the energy benefits, Holdsworth said prospective customers may want to consider the aesthetics of how the batteries look, mounted on the wall.
“They’re very sexy batteries,” he said.