Tesla Motors CTO JB Straubel told engineering students at the University of Nevada recently that from the very beginning, the gigafactory was designed to be a net-zero building with zero carbon emissions. What’s makes this statement more special is that this building will reportedly be one of the largest manmade structures on Earth when it is completed.
What net zero actually means
Straubel informed students that the company wanted to make it a “net-zero facility” from the “get-go.” “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,” the Tesla executive said.
Straubel added that all the mechanical equipment will kept off the roof, and the company did not put in any extra penetrations through the roof that they did not need to. And the surface will be completely covered in solar panels. In addition, Tesla went to surroundings hillsides that could not be used for other functions and added solar panels to them.
Explaining the concept of “net zero,” Straubel said it does not mean that the building won’t be connected to the grid. It simply means that whatever electricity is taken out of the grid will be put back into it.
Tesla always aimed for zero emissions factory
The gigafactory was designed to be a zero emissions factory since the beginning. This means that Tesla decided in advance not to bring natural gas to the site. Straubel informed students that the company wanted to manage the emissions from the gigafactory, and to some extent, this could be made possible with the help of solar energy. But Tesla made a radical move at the beginning of the construction process not to burn any fossil fuels in the factory to ensure zero emissions. Straubel said that just like its electric cars give off zero emissions, the company wanted to build a zero-emission factory as well.
“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,” Straubel said.
In the end, Straubel said that Tesla is enjoying the challenge of constructing a massive structure that gives off zero emissions and is net zero. The executives acknowledged a number challenges that have come up in their quest but added that it’s been a “fun activity.”