Jehu Garcia didn’t count on to be recognized for working with Lithium-ion batteries. The California-based YouTuber beforehand began a images equipment firm, and initially thought his life was extra about cameras and making movies. “I didn’t need to be referred to as the battery man,” Garcia advised me on a current telephone name.

But then, in 2015, Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Powerwall. The suitcase-sized battery lets householders retailer electrical energy, both from the grid or photo voltaic panels. The system represented a formidable step ahead in various power expertise, however it began at $3,000 and will solely retailer 10 KWh of electrical energy, or a couple of third the common American family consumes in a day.

Inspired by Tesla, battery hobbyists began constructing their very own DIY powerwalls utilizing recycled laptop computer batteries and hooking them as much as photo voltaic panels for a fraction of the price. They turned to YouTube, Facebook, and devoted on-line boards to swap methods and discover out the place to purchase provides. Garcia, by way of his tutorial YouTube movies, rapidly grew to become one of the crucial revered and influential DIY powerwall lovers on the web.

Two years earlier than the Powerwall was launched, Garcia transformed a classic Volkswagen bus to run on an electrical battery as a substitute of gasoline. He was additionally already a fan of Tesla, and knew a bit about Lithium-ion batteries, that are utilized in every thing from cellphones and laptops to Powerwalls. So he began making movies instructing others the way to construct their very own various and recycled power supply.

Garcia rapidly grew to become in style, and his movies began garnering tens of 1000’s of views. He started to not solely train individuals the way to construct batteries, but in addition to safe a lot of 18650 cells—the type wanted to make DIY powerwalls—to distribute to his viewers.

Garcia in the end isn’t simply one other YouTuber in it for the views, he has change into a neighborhood chief devoted to altering how all of us take into consideration power. He goals to show to the world that you just don’t want a company or nonprofit that will help you go off the grid, you are able to do it your self.

In October, I visited Garcia at his modest house within the sleepy suburb of Rancho Cucamonga, about an hour exterior of Los Angeles. Next to his storage, he has constructed himself a makeshift studio, the place he usually works with batteries and movies his YouTube movies.

Garcia doesn’t have any formal coaching, and hasn’t ever taken knowledgeable engineering class. He was introduced over the border from Mexico as a baby, and by no means attended faculty. But he makes use of his uncommon background to his benefit, as a result of he’s far simpler to narrate to than a tech government or skilled engineer. If Garcia can construct a DIY powerwall, you possibly can too.

With over 140,000 YouTube subscribers, Garcia is devoted to creating movies full time, and has huge plans for the longer term. When I first wrote about DIY powerwall builders in August, he advised me he was planning to sooner or later construct one of many largest privately owned sources of energy within the US. The big battery system will be capable to retailer 1 megawatt of energy, or 1000 kWh, Garcia says. “We’re going to energy a recycling facility,” he advised me on the time.

Last month, Garcia traveled to a spot that would maybe use various sources of power greater than anyplace else: Puerto Rico. In September, the US territory was devastated by Hurricane Maria, a class 5 storm that destroyed essential infrastructure on the island and killed a whole bunch of individuals.

Read More: How to Remake Puerto Rico’s Grid to Survive the Next Storm

Garcia says he raised between $30,000 and $40,000 by way of donations to carry small powerwalls and photo voltaic panels to over 30 households thus far with out energy on the island. The majority of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents are believed to nonetheless be with out electrical energy, almost three months after the storm hit shore.

Where many individuals may see in Puerto Rico solely a humanitarian disaster, Garcia sees a vibrant future powered by various power. “I feel it’s a possibility rather more than a tragedy,” he mentioned, referring to the island’s energy disaster.

He thinks if individuals witness photo voltaic panels and recycled batteries engaged on the island, they’ll be extra keen to spend money on the expertise elsewhere. “I feel if individuals see it, if trade sees it, it’s going to be the primary a part of the US the place the longer term begins.”

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This article sources info from Motherboard