When Tesla Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel made a presentation at the University of Nevada last month, what he said in the Q&A session afterwards may have been more important that what he said during his talk. He told his audience that the Gigafactory will be a net zero facility producing as much energy as it uses.
“[F]rom the get-go, from the first concept of this factory, we wanted to make it a net zero facility,” Straubel said. “So…the most visible thing we are doing is covering the entire site with solar power. The whole roof of the Gigafactory was designed from the beginning with solar in mind. We kept all of the mechanical equipment off the roof. We didn’t put extra…penetrations through the roof that we didn’t need to and it’s a very, very clean surface that we can completely cover in solar. But that’s not enough solar, though. So we have also gone to the surrounding hillsides that we can’t use for other functions and we’re adding solar to those.”
Net zero does not mean the factory won’t be connected to the grid. It means that it will put as much electricity back into the grid as it takes from it. One thing the Gigafactory will not be connected to, though, is a natural gas source. According to CleanTechnica, Straubel told his audience,
“[W]e took kind of a radical move in the beginning and said we are not going to burn any fossil fuels in the factory. You know, zero emissions. We are going to build a zero-emissions factory — just like the car. So, instead of kind of fighting this battle in hindsight, we just said we are not even going to have a natural gas pipeline coming to the factory, so we didn’t even build it. And it kind of forced the issue. When you don’t have natural gas, you know, none of the engineers can say, “Oh, but it will be more efficient, let me use just a little bit.” Sorry, we don’t even have it.”
Tesla is committed to showing the world how to break its fossil fuel habit by building high quality electric cars. When it comes to its own manufacturing facility in Nevada, Tesla is not only talking the talk, it is walking the walk. Tesla has been telling us for sometime that the Gigafactory would be net zero and carbon neutral. It says so right on the artist’s rendering of what the building will look like.
Straubel is justifiably proud of the effort Tesla is making to have its Gigafactory be a model for all other manufacturers. When completed, the Gigafactory will not only be one of the largest buildings on earth, it will be an ongoing demonstration project for how to do business in a sustainable, carbon neutral manner. The process has taken a lot of thought and creative solutions, but Straubel made it clear to his audience that he and his colleagues have enjoyed the process.
“[I]t’s kind of been a fun activity and just, a lot of challenges that come up. But in every single step of the process, we have been able to reinvent and come up with solutions. There’s a heat pump technology that actually ends up way more efficient than just burning natural gas for steam. And then, we have a facility that has basically no emissions. The only emissions are related to the vehicles that might go there that aren’t electric or things like that. But we’ll try to attack that one piece at a time.” If Elon Musk has his way, all those old fashioned fossil fuel burning cars and trucks in the parking lot will soon be a thing of the past.