The final ink is barely dry on the final acquisition agreement with SolaCity, but already Tesla is touting its expansion into renewable energy with the installation of renewable energy-powered microgrid, including a 1.4 megawatt solar power farm and 6-megawatt hours of energy storage on the island of Ta’u in American Samoa, which will provide almost 100 percent of the island’s energy needs.
It’s a big change for the remote island nearly 4,000 miles from the West Coast of the US. It’s nearly 600 residents and used to rely on diesel generators for all of its electric needs, which required the import of roughly 109,500 gallons of diesel annually. The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Interior.
The new microgrid, which will show the capabilities of a microgrid system, will alleviate at least the issue of rationing out the diesel-generated electricity. It also is reducing electric costs since the pricing doesn’t fluctuate for energy produced from solar panels. The new microgrid will also provide power for the island’s hospital, schools, fire and police stations and its local businesses.
“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,” Ahsoon said.
Other than the changing costs of diesel and the costs of repairing generators, importing fuel so far from shores, posed other unique problems. “I recall a time they weren’t able to get the boat out here for two months,” said Keith Ahsoon, a local resident and grocer. “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.”
The new system, which has more than 5,000 solar panels and uses 60 Tesla PowerPacks, can power the island for 3 days without they sun, according to SolarCity. It can also recharge with just 7 hours of sunlight.
Many remote areas—particularly islands—have had to rely on diesel generation as their main source of electricity for years, including Hawaii. Given the fluctuating pricing of diesel as well as shipping costs, it’s much more expensive to power generators on islands than on large land masses. Solar, wind and other renewable forms of energy are attractive alternatives to diesel and have the added benefit of being pollution free. With the addition of energy storage systems, which are becoming less expensive, islands can now reduce their reliance on more expensive fossil fuel power.Tweet