SpaceX is expanding the solar farm at its South Texas launch facility


SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
Michael Sheetz | CNBC

SpaceX is expanding the solar farm at its Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, according to documents obtained by CNBC from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The FWS documents, known as a draft biological conference and opinion (BCO), reveal that SpaceX is increasing the size of its on-site solar farm by 1.7 acres, or about 30%, making the solar array a total of 7.1 acres. The company has begun clearing and leveling for construction at the site already.

Elon Musk‘s space company already uses solar panels and big batteries at the South Texas vertical launch facility to provide electricity for day-to-day operations. It also operates a natural gas power plant in Boca Chica.

As of late 2021, the solar farm there covered 5.4 acres and supplied approximately 1 MW of power, with a 3.87 MW-hour battery for energy storage according to the BCO.

The expansion underway, with construction expected to take place over two years in all, would add 750 kilowatts of power for a total of 1.6 MWs of energy, and an additional battery system enabling up to 8 MW-hours of storage, the documents said.

They also indicate that SpaceX is using panels made by Chinese manufacturers Trina Solar at the launch facility rather than photovoltaics produced by Tesla, the electric vehicle and energy business also led by Musk.

The batteries for the solar farm are Tesla’s Power Pack energy storage systems, however, which are geared for businesses and utilities. Tesla also offers a residential battery, the Powerwall, and a grid-scale energy storage system called the Megapack.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, with a Powerpack unit the background unveils suit of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities.
Getty Images

During the first quarter of 2022, a record quarter for Tesla overall, the company’s energy division was more than 10% in the red, with revenue of $616 million (and cost of revenue at $688 million).

Tesla’s solar deployments dropped by nearly half to 48 MW versus the same period in 2021. But the battery business made up for some of that. Tesla deployed 846 MWh of lithium ion based battery energy storage systems in the first three months of 2022, up 90% from the same period a year earlier.

Collaboration between Elon Musk’s companies is not new, but has increased slightly over time by the numbers.

As CNBC previously reported, SpaceX shares not only a CEO but also board members past and present with Tesla. In 2020, SpaceX bought around $4 million worth of energy systems, parts, components and services from Tesla, including labor.

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