Just off a freeway in Southern California, 396 refrigerator-size stacks of Tesla batteries, encased in white metal, have been hastily erected with a new mission: to suck up electricity from the grid during the day and feed it back into the system as needed, especially in the evening.
The installation, capable of powering roughly 15,000 homes over four hours, is part of an emergency response to projected energy shortages stemming from a huge leak at a natural gas storage facility.
The project, which officially came online Monday but began operating at the end of last year, is an important and surprising demonstration of how utilities can use enormous collections of batteries in place of conventional power plants.
It is also an indication of how rapidly Tesla is moving to transform itself from a maker of luxury electric cars into a multifaceted clean-energy company.
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