The island of Ta’u in American Samoa has been using diesel generators and burning over 100,000 gallons of fuel per year in order to supply its nearly 600 residents with electricity. That’s no longer the case and the island is now virtually energy independent thanks to a new solar and battery installation by Tesla and SolarCity, which is now officially part of Tesla since the merger closed yesterday.
The company deployed a 1.4-megawatt solar array and a 6-megawatt hour energy storage system with 60 Tesla Powerpacks. The system is what is called a microgrid and it’s now the island’s main source of energy.
Tesla’s energy storage system could cover the island’s electricity needs for 3 days if the sun was to not shine for that long for some reason.
SolarCity announced the completion of the project today. The company wrote:
“Ta’u is not a postcard from the future, it’s a snapshot of what is possible right now. Renewable power is an economical, practical solution for a growing number of locations and energy needs, and islands that have traditionally relied on fossil fuels can easily transition to microgrids powered by solar and storage today.”
The project is being described as one of the most advanced microgrids ever deployed and it is located about 4,000 miles from the West Coast of the United States:
The transport of the diesel alone was a signficant part of the cost of the electricity supplied to the resident of the island and it wasn’t always a guarantee that the boats will come.
SolarCity quoted Keith Ahsoon, a local resident whose family owns one of the food stores on the island:
“I recall a time they weren’t able to get the boat out here for two months. We rely on that boat for everything, including importing diesel for the generators for all of our electricity. Once diesel gets low, we try to save it by using it only for mornings and afternoons. Water systems here also use pumps, everyone in the village uses and depends on that. It’s hard to live not knowing what’s going to happen. I remember growing up using candlelight. And now, in 2016, we were still experiencing the same problems.”
But now the solar and battery system is much more reliable and creates energy independence for the island. Ahsoon added:
“It’s always sunny out here, and harvesting that energy from the sun will make me sleep a lot more comfortably at night, just knowing I’ll be able to serve my customers,”
The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Interior, and is expected to allow the island to save significantly on energy costs.
Tesla is using the project as an example of what microgrids can do for communities in remote areas. The company is also invested in similar smaller projects in Africa through the startup Off Grid Electric.
SolarCity released a video of the project with some stunning images of the island:
If you want to install a solar array at your home, business (and maybe combine it with a Tesla Powerwall to get your own little microgrid), you can see if it makes sense for your property and if you can be saving money on your energy bill with a free solar quote here