Tesla is best known as an electric car company, but the firm also has a thriving business in battery storage—including utility-scale battery installations to support the electric grid. Bloomberg reports that Tesla is currently building a battery installation in Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s new home state of Texas. The project is in Angleton, about an hour south of Houston.
Tesla hasn’t publicized the project, which is operating under the name of an obscure Tesla subsidiary called Gambit Energy Storage LLC.
When a Bloomberg photographer visited, a worker discouraged picture-taking and said the project was “secretive.” The project appears to consist of 20 large banks of batteries that have been covered by white sheets.
A document on the city of Angleton’s website provides some details about the project. It’s listed as being a project of Plus Power but includes a photo of a Tesla battery cabinet. Plus Power counts two former Tesla employees among its executives. Plus confirmed to Bloomberg that it had started the project, then sold it to an undisclosed party.
The installation will use lithium iron phosphate batteries (LiFePO4) that are expected to last 10 to 20 years. The document says that it will generate around $1 million in property tax revenue for the city of Angleton. The site will be unmanned but will be remotely monitored at all times, according to the document.
Texas has its own electric grid overseen by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. “Angleton forms an especially volatile ‘node’ on the ERCOT energy grid and the greater system will benefit from the energy balancing properties that the battery can provide,” the document says.
The Texas grid got a lot of attention in February after unusually cold weather left much of the state without power for several days. In a sarcastic tweet last month, Musk wrote that “ERCOT is not earning that R.”
And Musk has a lot of reason to be concerned about the quality of the electric grid in Texas. Not only did Musk recently relocate to the state, but both of his companies—SpaceX and Tesla—are expanding their footprint there. Tesla is building a car factory in the Austin area. SpaceX has long had a testing facility in McGregor, Texas, about halfway between Austin and Dallas. More recently, SpaceX has been pouring resources into its Boca Chica launch facility at the very southern tip of the state.
An ERCOT official told Bloomberg that the secretive installation has a proposed commercial operation date of June 1, so it may be nearing completion.
RELATED ARTICLE ABOUT LITHIUM IRON PHOSPHATE BATTERIES – “From the aspect of preparation of lithium iron phosphate battery, since the LiFePO4 nano-sized particles are small, the specific surface area is high, and the high specific surface area activated carbon has a strong gas such as moisture in the air due to the carbon coating process. Adsorption, resulting in poor electrode processing performance, the adhesion of the binder to its nanoparticles is poor. The nanoparticles are easily detached from the electrode during the battery preparation process or during the charge and discharge cycle and storage of the battery, causing a micro short circuit inside the battery.”