The Answer To Our Energy Problems May Lie in the Nevada Desert

Nevada Desert

The Georgia legislature’s energy policy places a certain emphasis on the need for efficiency and conservation, which is an issue that Tesla Motors is trying to solve in the deserts of Nevada.

In Leonardo DiCaprio and director Fisher Stevens’ new environmental documentary Before the Flood, the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, discusses the need to move towards sustainable energy and explains his plans for his car company’s new so called Gigafactory.

According to a 2014 report from the Georgia Governor’s Energy Policy Council, “The energy policy in Georgia should prioritize energy efficiency and conservation, the use of renewable sources, and advance coal, natural gas and nuclear technology.”

To read Georgia’s Energy Report for 2016, click here.

In Musk’s interview with DiCaprio, he articulates how revolutionary the Gigafactory’s technology could be for the earth as a whole.

Aerial view of Tesla’s Gigafactory

Tesla’s first Gigifactory is located just outside of Sparks, Nevada. The first quarter of the factory opened in July 2016, and a multi step plan aims to have the entire factory completed by 2020.

The Gigifactory was created to manufacture the lithium ion batteries used in Tesla cars. Lithium ion batteries are rechargeable sources of energy commonly found in home electronics.

According to Tesla’s website, the name Gigafactory is derived from, “the factory’s planned annual battery production capacity of 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh). ‘Giga’ is a unit of measurement that represents ‘billions’.”

The ultimate goal of this factory is to produce enough energy-efficient vehicles to create a change in the automotive industry worldwide, and do so on an affordable level.

To accomplish this, Tesla states via that they plan to produce 500,000 cars per year. The batteries the Gigafactory manufactures will ensure this happens.

Musk states in his interview, “Batteries are critical to the sustainable energy future. The sun doesn’t shine all of the time, so got to store it in a battery.”

The innovation behind the Gigafactory’s products and their potential not only lies with the technology, but in the implications that it could have for communities worldwide.

Musk likens the low cost advantage of solar and batteries in these communities to what happened with cell phones when they became available in these areas during the early 2000s, supplanting the need to establish landline phones.

With solar and battery power, there is no need for electricity plants at all. With this technology, solar panels charge battery packs and then have the ability to supply power to an entire village.

This innovation and could mean a much more sustainable future for ensuing generations.

And by Tesla’s calculations, it would only take 100 Gigafactories to bring make this a reality.

Knowing this information, DiCaprio responds, “Sounds manageable.”

There are some limitations that Tesla faces, however. The Gigafactory is massive, and could be up to 15 million square feet. It also costs about $5 billion to make.

While creating a large number of these factories is possible, Tesla doesn’t have the capacity to build them on their own. Musk states that other well-known companies with bigger industry presence, however, do have the ability to build more Gigafactories.

The fossil fuel industry is the biggest in the world, and whether big industry chooses to participate in creating an alternative to fuel is contingent on energy giants like Exxon changing their practices.

Ultimately what would accelerate the move to sustainable energy would be government support, and specifically a carbon tax. A carbon tax would create a payment causing these companies to look for a more cost efficient method to energy production not subject to the tax.

The difficulty with the Gigafactory and Musk’s prescription for the future of energy is that it is dependent on the modification of the dominating capitalist culture.

In one of the last scenes of the film, DiCaprio states, “We have the means of stopping this devastation, but simply lack the political will to do so.” This change is thus contingent on world leaders and their willingness to accept climate change and its implications.

As massive consumers of energy and the voices of a future generation, DiCaprio sets out to prove that it is everyone’s duty to consider alternative means of power, and recognize that it begins with those who lead the country.

Before the Flood attempts to act as a call to action, proving that the world can no longer sustain itself if people continue to treat it poorly. Musk’s statements within the film, and Tesla’s work on the Gigafactory, demonstrate that the technology for change is available should people choose to utilize it.

For more information on Tesla’s Gigafactory and the batteries it produces, plus incoming news regarding the factory, click here.

To learn more about Georgia’s energy policy and legislation, click here.

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