Tesla and SolarCity have announced they have (almost) entirely powered the small island of Ta’u in American Samoa with solar panels.
Up to now, the island has had to depend on imported diesel to generate electricity. But, Tesla’s new 1.4-megawatt microgrid will now absorb and store enough sunlight to meet most of the islands energy needs.
American Samoa is made up of five main islands in the South Pacific nearly 4,350 miles from the west coast of the USA. Ta’u itself only has 600 people living on it.
Its population relies heavily on shipped imports for anything they cannot produce on the island. Up to now that has always included fuel for their electrical grid.
Keith Ahsoon, a local resident whose family owns one of the food stores on the island explained that he recalled “a time they weren’t able to get the boat out here for two months [… and] we [had to] rely on that boat for everything, including importing diesel for the generators for all of our electricity. Once diesel gets low, we [would] try to save it by using it only for mornings and afternoons. Water systems [there] 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.”
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The partnership between SolarCity and Tesla has resulted in an array of 5,328 solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpacks breaking the island’s dependence on diesel imports.
Tesla Powerpacks are the industrial-grade version of the company’s consumer Powerwall batteries and ‘solve’ the biggest problem associated with solar energy – how to store electricity generated during the day for use at night.
The Powerpack can store 6-megawatt hours of electricity. This means that the island can stay powered for three full days without the sun shining and absorb enough solar energy in 7 hours of sunlight to top the pack back to 100 percent capacity.
American Samoa Economic Development Authority funded the project, and after a year of construction, it launched the solar array this week.
SolarCity has said that the grid can supply “nearly 100 percent of the island’s power needs”.
Tesla and Solar City next step is an even larger solar farm, made from 55,000 solar panels, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.