posted on Jun, 18 2017 @ 10:38 AM
The Tesla Giga Factory, if operating to design capacity, will output 35GWh of batteries annually. Current studies indicate that approximately 1/3 of
it's necessary energy supply will come from nearby wind farms and solar roof panels. That's an admirable start to things. The physical plant will
also house a Panasonic production facility producing batteries as well. Tesla opted not to connect to the two large natural gas lines made available
for energy needs, instead drawing the remaining 2/3 of their requirements from the commercial electrical grid. This diverts, but not eliminates, the
carbon footprint of the electricity, since the stations providing that power use natural gas generators, with peak demand shortages met by
diesel-powered secondary units.
Still, gas is cleaner than coal or fuel oils. So still proactive enough, I suppose.
Being that water is a fairly precious resource in Nevada, the factory will also use processed and filtered wastewater from sewage treatment to meet
some of its non-potable supply needs. This is also an insightful and responsible design factor. Drinking water and other potable needs will be
fulfilled from municipal drinking sources, of course.
The lithium for their batteries is sourced from Silver Peak, which is the home of the only current lithium extraction facility in the U.S. This supply
is in the form of a mineral-rich dry lake bed. Unlike traditional methods, which allow a slow natural evaporation to remove water from lithium
extraction processes, Tesla processes the water-laden lithium extract to dry it in hours, instead of months. I have been unable to determine the fate
of the waste water and other products from this industrial method.
So far, this all seems rather wonderful. The massive take exemptions and cuts Nevada used to secure the project may sour some people towards the idea,
but that's how any industry is enticed to a particular state. I personally have no problems with that.
But here's where it gets tricky. 35GWh of energy in batteries out the door. Possibly to be increased to 50GWh. These are all Li Ion rechargeable
cells housed in battery packs. With regular use, each of the battery packs will require recharging at least every 2-3 days. Tesla has made a large
push to entice private businesses to partner with them to offer Tesla Charging Stations. I'm not certain if this will be a service that the vehicle
owners will pay for directly, or if the increased electricity costs will be offset by the fact that someone using a station will likely spend several
hours and hopefully several dollars there while charging.
But that is the underlying issue. These miraculous electric vehicles will still require regular and frequent charging, and the vast majority of the
electrical supply for that will come from the municipal grids supplying the vehicle's current location. Despite the fact that clean and/or renewable
energy sources are frequently discussed in the news and elsewhere, it seems to me that an unnerving number of people either have no idea or pay no
attention to where their electricity comes from or how it's produced. You just plug into the socket, and it's there. And they send you a bill for it
every 30 days. But just blindly assuming that an electric vehicle makes one carbon neutral or eliminates the entirety of their old internal combustion
vehicle's footprint is an ill-informed fantasy.
The majority of the U.S. energy grid is still powered by fossil fuels and Nuclear. Personally, I think Nuclear would be by far the best option if a
few industry regulations were changed or repealed, but that's beside the point I'm working toward here.
And besides electricity, that shiny new battery pack and the vehicle it is installed in also rely heavily on plastics and other synthetic materials
and petroleum lubricants. Does all of this make a new Tesla a bad vehicle? Absolutely not. But does it make it an environmental Deus ex Machina?
Also, absolutely not.
My point is this: objective understanding of these factors before buying one makes for a far better human being than buying one for empty virtue