By Adrien Taylor

Electric car company Tesla has announced a new product which chief executive Elon Musk says is revolutionary.

The new product is simply a battery. But while it may sound underwhelming to some, this new battery has got the solar industry excited. Mr Musk is the man behind luxury Tesla electric cars, and SpaceX rockets, so why’s he so excited about a battery?

“The issue with existing batteries is that they suck, okay? They’re really horrible.”

Mr Musk says the new Powerwall batteries – available for homes and business – are more efficient and, starting at $4000, are cheaper than current options.

New Zealand’s largest solar retailer, SolarCity, says batteries have been too expensive for most people with solar to buy them. Instead, most people who generate their own solar power during the day feed it back to the grid, then pay a much higher price to draw power back at night.

But SolarCity chief executive Andrew Booth says everything will change with cheap batteries.

“Batteries will enable the grid here in New Zealand to become quite smart,” says Mr Booth.

“It’ll allow consumers to decide whether they want to buy power from the energy retailers or whether they want to buy their own power off their roofs. The key thing about batteries is that it will completely change the shape of energy here in New Zealand.”

The smart grid he’s referring to is the idea that eventually, we’ll all be able to buy and transfer energy to and from each other.

Lines company Wellington Electricity says the transition is under way.

“We think our grid’s going to be more like a transport system and it won’t mind which way the energy flows,” says chief executive Greg Skelton.

“It’ll provide the backbone for people to provide energy to other people or for retailers to provide energy to people, as they are at the moment.”

Tesla’s Powerwall will begin shipping in spring, just in time to store next summer’s energy.

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