The Tesla Powerwall has transformed the lives of many in the US and how we use energy, but did you know that it’s even being utilized in the developing world in places such as Zimbabwe?
Their electric grid’s limitations have been a significant obstacle for Zimbabwe; the developing nation is susceptible to prolonged power blackouts. However, because a single Tesla Powerwall can store up to 10 hours’ worth of electricity, the country can use them to stay powered during outages.
As you can expect, the Powerwall offers much potential for this African country to become self-dependent on energy, leaving it room to grow and develop into a prosperous nation. Below, we’ll talk about the many ways the Tesla Powerwall is being used to transform Zimbabwe.
Where Does Zimbabwe Get Its Electricity?
Just 41.04% of Zimbabwe’s population has access to electricity, which is a significant improvement over the 32.3% figure from 2014. The African nation sources its power back to one hydroelectric power plant and four coal-powered generators.
The country has had to contend with prolonged recessions (2000-2008) and political turmoil, both significant roadblocks in the path to energy dependence.
Given the nation’s limited energy infrastructure up to this point, extensive power outages are not rare. In some cases, power cuts have lasted as long as 18 hours. These are not simply weather-related power outages; they are scheduled cuts that become necessary due to the limited energy infrastructure and the financial health of the nation’s utility provider.
As you can probably imagine, the historical narrative around Zimbabwe and its energy sector have made it difficult for the burgeoning country to realize its true potential.
How Does the Tesla Powerwall Help Zimbabwe?
The limitations of Zimbabwe’s energy infrastructure mean that it is difficult for mobile network providers to even function. One of the reasons this is so unfortunate is that the nation of Zimbabwe relies significantly upon electronic money transfers if it is going to get any business done.
Shift to Renewable Energy
Econet Wireless is the most significant provider of the mobile services necessary for electronic transactions to be completed; the company currently holds a 95% market share. In the past, Econet Wireless has tried using traditional gasoline generators as a back-up plan, to no avail.
For one, there is no guarantee that there will always be fuel available to power the generators when they are needed continuously. Besides being inefficient, traditional generators are noisy and can be costly to maintain.
This is where the Tesla Powerwall comes in. Econet Wireless has been installing Powerwall batteries at its base stations all over Zimbabwe to provide a back-up source of energy when the power has been cut. The company doing the installations for Econet plans to install two Tesla Powerwalls at all of the 1,300 base stations positioned across Zimbabwe.
Overall, the Powerwall battery has been found to be quite a suitable alternative to diesel generators. The Powerwall can store energy from both the existing electric grid and from a set of solar panels.
Installation of the Powerwall is Worth the Cost
The Powerwall itself costs about $6,500 in Zimbabwe. The first phase of the project has involved plans for Exonet to deploy 520 Tesla Powerwalls at 260 of its sites. Since two units are being installed at each location, you can anticipate each of the 260 installations costing at least $13,000 for a total of 260 x $13,000 = $3.38 million.
Estimates of the total costs have not yet been released, but you can certainly anticipate more installation and transportation costs. These costs can vary from site to site, with more remote locations costing more.
Still, Zimbabwe has determined the project to be well worth the associated costs when you consider the positive impact that it should have on the economy. More than $200 million of mobile cash passes through Zimbabwe’s electronic payment programs daily. If the internet has to be shut down, even for a little bit, then the country will stand to lose a great deal of economic opportunity.
Additionally, the Powerwall is actually cheaper to use than a diesel generator. The use of batteries has cut reliance on traditional generators in the nation by 75%.
Other Benefits of Using the Powerwall in Zimbabwe
Here are other reasons why the Tesla Powerwall project in Zimbabwe holds so much potential to combat the nation’s energy woes successfully:
- The Tesla Powerwall can store a supply of energy that can last for as long as ten continuous hours when the primary source of power has been cut out.
- Since 2 Powerwalls are installed at each station, there should be enough stored energy to cover for even the longest power outages.
- The Powerwall can tolerate extreme temperatures, an excellent trait for equipment that will be used in the hostile climate of Africa.
- Lithium-ion batteries are better protected against theft than traditional lead-acid batteries.
- The Powerwalls used at the Econet base stations can be circulated throughout homes whenever there is a case where energy remains in the battery after being utilized for payment programs.This is especially helpful since the vast majority of residents are unable to afford alternative energy options themselves.
Challenges of the Powerwall Zimbabwe Project
The Zimbabwe project is not without its limitations. The major obstacle for the task at the moment has to do with the supply chain. Tesla Powerwall batteries are available in relatively limited supply. One reason this is occurring is that Tesla is selective when it comes to which suppliers can sell its products. A majority of Powerwall sales are still sourced back to Tesla’s website, rather than suppliers.
The company is in the process of enacting solutions for the more rapid distribution of the Powerwall. One recent change that should improve the distribution process is adding more production lines dedicated to the Powerwall rather than vehicle batteries.
However, despite these challenges, Zimbabwe’s Powerwall project continues to progress as Econet just recently placed another order with Tesla for batteries. The trial run’s success, combined with existing knowledge about the Powerwall battery’s versatility, continues to inspire great hope that this project will be a smashing success.
Which Other Countries Have Tesla Powerwalls?
South Africa has historically had a reputation for having a stable energy supply. However, recently, the nation’s utility provider has been engaged in load-shedding operations, not much unlike what has happened in Zimbabwe.
In these times of uncertainty, South Africa’s leaders have shown great interest in implementing solar technology to help take the pressure off the nation’s traditional sources of energy. The Powerwall is available in South Africa, with the first residential installation taking place back in 2016. As power cut-offs continue to occur, it would be prudent for companies to explore the benefits of Powerwall technology.
With that said, it shouldn’t be long until more developing nations take advantage of this advanced energy-efficient technology as well.
Recurrent load-shedding operations threaten Zimbabwe’s economy, which is largely dependent upon electronic energy transfers to keep the country moving forward. Fortunately, the Tesla Powerwall is adept enough at storing energy for the networks to be kept up and running during even the longest of power outages.
Econet Wireless, the most significant internet and telecommunication service provider, has begun an ambitious project to install two Powerwalls at each of its base stations scattered throughout Zimbabwe. Any stored energy that is leftover can be redirected to other critical operations like industrial sites or medical facilities to keep the African nation developing, become economically successful, and move closer to energy self-dependence.