The microgrid – 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity from SolarCity and Tesla and 6 megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks – was implemented within just one year from start to finish. Credit: SolarCity

Tesla converts an entire island of American Samoa from 100% diesel to 100% solar energy

The microgrid – 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity from SolarCity and Tesla and 6 megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks – was implemented within just one year from start to finish. Credit: SolarCity

The microgrid – 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity from SolarCity and Tesla and 6-megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks – was implemented within just one year from start to finish. Credit: SolarCity

Yesterday morning, Tesla Motors’ shareholders approved the company’s merger with SolarCity, one of the biggest residential solar energy contractors in the United States, with over 300,000 customers. If you remember Elon Musk’s amazing press conference in October, the merger positions Tesla as a fully sustainable energy trident made of transportation (Tesla EVs), energy generation (SolarCity), and energy storage (Tesla’s Powerwall).

In anticipation of the merger, Tesla and SolarCity were already working together on several projects. One of the most exciting is the complete energy transformation of Ta‘ū, one of the five islands in American Samoa — a remote island chain and territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, some 4,000 miles away from the West Coast.

For as long as they can remember, all of the island’s 600 inhabitants have relied on diesel generators to power their homes, small shops, harbor or the indispensable water pumps. Every year, 100,000 gallons of fuel had to be imported. A significant portion of this fuel was reserved for the transportation of the energy itself, and there were countless times when the supply boats didn’t arrive on time, forcing power outages throughout 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,” said Keith Ahsoon, a local resident, quoted by SolarCity.

Now, Ta‘ū is completely self-sustained thanks to the combined efforts and tech of Tesla and SolarCity. A 1.4-megawatt solar array is more than enough to meet the islanders’ energy requirements and 60 Tesla Powerpacks amounting to 6-megawatt hour store enough energy to power the island for up to three days if the solar panels are cut off.

“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,” a SolarCity statement reads. 

A snapshot of some of the 60 PowerWalls installed on the island. Credit: SolarCity

A snapshot of some of the 60 PowerWalls installed on the island. Credit: SolarCity

“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,” said Ahsoon.

“This is part of making history. This project will help lessen the carbon footprint of the world. Living on an island, you experience global warming firsthand. Beach erosions and other noticeable changes are a part of life here. It’s a serious problem, and this project will hopefully set a good example for everyone else to follow,” the Samoan resident added.

The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Interior.

Updated November 25, 2016 for clarity. The initial draft mistook the island of Ta’u for the whole island chain of American Samoa. Ta’u is one of five islands belonging to American Samoa. 

 

29 thoughts on “Tesla converts an entire island of American Samoa from 100% diesel to 100% solar energy

  1. Pingback: 特斯拉太阳能小岛也有啦!岛上现在用电100%清洁 - 代码哥

  2. Dr.K.SParthasarathy

    Nice news story. Why there is no effort to work out the expenses? Can it be done?In a remote area the present solar power system may be defend-able even when it is expensive. Invoking savings in carbon foot print is also defend-able, though it is trivial in absolute terms!.

  3. Pingback: 特斯拉太阳能小岛也有啦!岛上现在用电 100% 清洁 – 数码周刊

  4. ThePragmatist

    American Samoa is made up of 5 islands: the main island of Tutuila where 90% of the population lives, and the smaller islands of Ta'u, Aunu'u, Ofu and Fatu Rock. Only the 600 people on Ta'u are getting solar, not the main island of Tutuila. To say that the entire island of American Samoa went solar is wrong. I wish it was true but it isn't.

  5. ThePragmatist

    From the article: "One of the most exciting is the complete energy transformation of American Samoa — a remote island and territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, some 4,000 miles away from the West Coast." Also: "Now, the island of American Samoa is completely self-sustained thanks to the combined efforts and tech of Tesla and SolarCity."

  6. tibipuiu

    You're right. This one was very bad. In my defense, I don't make such confusions too often. It should be fine now after the edit. Thanks, though :)

  7. Brian

    In context, the use of the word Samoa as a pronoun for the individual island, it is not deceptive. I agree the title is. Send him a direct email. He will probably change it. It would be more polite to contact him privately for these suggestion so as to minimize his embarrassment. Right? I like his site. I think he selects great events and articles. Help him out.

  8. ThePragmatist

    The use of the word Samoa as a pronoun would indicate the country of Samoa, which is not only not Ta'u, but describes a different set of islands belonging to a different nation than American Samoa. The author should simply change the location to "Ta'u Island in American Samoa" both in the title and the body of the article, and then all will be correct. Good idea though – in future I will contact the author directly as you suggest.

  9. ThePragmatist

    It is a very interesting story and I would certainly share it after the confusion has been cleared up as to which island was actually converted to solar. :)

  10. Brian

    As a pronoun it would implicitly refer to the context, which is repeatedly Ta'u.

    Why wait for the future, contact him now. Just say to me: "yes, I did. Good idea" . You can edit your comments. You can do it now. I will too in response.

  11. BrownHorn

    What needs to be done? ……The smoke screen …the illusion….the smog.. when it is gone, humans can see the Summit clearly.

    Greed for wealth from fossil oil is driving hegemony and desires of man.

    I hope many countries will ask the UN at the UN General Assembly to take central command to bring in all the experts under one roof, under UN, to research into green, clean, cheap and abundance new sources of energy for the sake of all mankind.

    Whether against climate change or not [as not all believe humans pollute], it is not the point.

    It is to find new sources of energy on earth for all mankind that is important as fossil oil, LNG, coal, etc. are not limitless.

    Let us put away the notion of pollution, but accept that there is a limit in oil, LNG and coal.

    It is not in abundance for mankind to use into eternity.

  12. Henry Simpson

    Actually the title is correct. It said " an entire island of American Samoa: It didn't say All or American Samoa. It said an island. Learn to read more and criticize less.

  13. ThePragmatist

    The title and content has been corrected since I made my comments. Kudos to the author for that. Read the update notice at the end of the article. Of course, if you had carefully read the comments, you should know that already. I suggest you heed your own advice.

  14. Steve Middendorf

    I would be interested in seeing the financial cost benefit as well as a paragraph each on the social and environmental aspects. Also, was a distributed model considered and why not?

  15. Brendan Holland

    well the diesil at that rate woudl be aroudn 250k + shipping , 1.4mw would be around 1.5mil to 2mil,,, plus the 4mwh which is around 250$ a kw, is 1.5 mil, so setup costs minus construction is around 3-4 mil, so that alone is goign to return a profit in 16 years,,, thena gain they wouldt get diesel that cheap,,, also those atteries and panels is workign out at consumer prices

  16. Khun Mick

    @tibipuiu:disqus I think this article would be improved by the inclusion of some numbers regarding costs and savings. Size of the investment, comparison with generation from diesel fuel, ROI, expected lifespan of the microgrid? Why solar not wind or a combo of the two? There is so much which is untold here…all things I hope point to the financial sense of this decision not just the environmental benefits.

  17. Pingback: The Power of Sun and Wind | Finding Ojiisan, Finding Myself

  18. PeterTx52

    if they showed the numbers the project wouldn't make financial sense. the vast majority of solar projects don't make financial sense. requires lots of subsidies
    they also don't mention that annual degradation of the solar panels which result in less efficiency
    "The rated power output of solar panels typically degrades at about 0.5%/year"
    http://energyinformative.org/lifespan-solar-panels/

  19. Pingback: Ta’u – The Solar Island

  20. Pingback: Recognizing the Benefits of Renewable Energy

  21. Pingback: Tesla converted an entire island from 100% diesel to 100% solar energy - MagazinAisle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.