In Texas, Elon Musk Begins His Plan for American Energy Domination

As the state’s utility failure subsides, Tesla is stepping in

Elon Musk presenting the Powerpack in Australia
Elon Musk launching Tesla’s Powerpack project in Australia in 2017.
Mark Brake/Getty Images

Say it with us: Tesla is not a car company. At least, it’s not only a car company. 

This became abundantly clear as the stock price of Elon Musk’s empire rose dramatically during the pandemic, eclipsing the market valuation of automakers that produce 20 times as many vehicles a year. Why was Tesla valued higher? In short, one analyst said, Tesla is a tech company with much more to offer. That includes the advanced driver-assistance features which are rolling out to more Tesla owners soon, but aren’t “full self-driving” despite the name.

But even calling Tesla a tech company is pigeonholing them. As Musk said during the company’s Battery Day event in September 2020, Tesla is focused on “accelerating the time to sustainable energy.” In essence, the CEO was positioning Tesla as an energy company. This is something he’s been touting for a while, and not just through consumer products like solar panels and home battery storage; in 2019, Musk said he expects Tesla’s energy arm to be the same size as the company’s car business, and that means becoming a “giant distributor global utility,” as Electrek reported at the time.

Today, we got the first look at how Tesla is making good on that promise in the U.S. In an exclusive report at Bloomberg, it has been revealed that Musk’s company is building “a more than 100 megawatt energy storage project in Angleton, Texas” which is connected to an electric grid that nearly failed during the recent winter storms that roiled the state. As the outlet explained, “The move marks Tesla Inc.’s first major foray into the epicenter of the U.S. energy economy.”

That’s first major foray, mind you, not first overall. Tesla Energy has had a 20 megawatt battery storage installation through Southern California Edison in Los Angeles for years. Outside the U.S., a 100 megawatt facility in Australia has been hailed “an undeniable success.” And as we speak, an even larger 182.5 megawatt project is under construction in Moss Landing near San Francisco. All of these systems are designed to store electricity produced by renewable energy sources like wind and solar and then provide it to consumers whenever there is demand. 

Unlike Musk’s bombast concerning Tesla’s electric cars and SpaceX’s rockets and satellites, which often takes the form of tweets, these energy projects have been relatively secretive. Bloomberg had to dig through records to confirm Tesla’s involvement in this Texas project (the company didn’t offer a comment and the construction is happening through a subsidiary called Gambit Energy Storage LLC). 

The rare confidentiality could be due to Tesla’s partnerships with utilities, whereas with the car business the company could go it alone. It could also be due to the fact that Tesla is taking a stand for renewable energy in a state that’s so tied up with fossil fuels that officials are happy to spout misinformation. Whatever the case, while Tesla’s stock is on a downward slide at the moment, don’t count the company out yet; it’s got another trick up its sleeve, and it’s not the Cybertruck.

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