Ta'u, America Samoa - In what is a sure sign of things to come, Tesla and SolarCity have wired an entire island, Ta’u in America Samoa, to run on solar energy. After Tesla completed a $2.6 billion acquisition of Solar City this week, the company announced their most stunning solar project to date.
Over the past year, Tesla has installed a solar energy microgrid, comprised of 5,328 solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpack batteries for energy storage on the island – previously the island ran off diesel fuel generators. The company claims that the solar energy system will supply “nearly 100 percent” of the energy needs for the islands 600 residents.
“The microgrid, which only took one year to build, features 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity (or 5,328 solar panels) and 6 megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks. An estimated 109,500 gallons of diesel will be offset per year,” according to EcoWatch.
The microgrid is operated by American Samoa Power Authority and was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior.
The ambitious project is meant to show exactly why the SolarCity acquisition was a smart move, as Elon Musk has a larger “Master Plan” to integrate clean energy and storage – a move that could completely change the world’s current energy paradigm. The move was lampooned by many market analysts as too risky for Tesla, due to SolarCity’s lack of profitability, which currently only makes $1 revenue for every $6 spent – but those analysts are most likely not visionary thinkers like Musk.
Reports indicate that the microgrid will allow the island to maintain full power for three days without any sunlight, and a full recharging capacity time of seven hours.
"Factoring in the escalating cost of fuel, along with transporting such mass quantities to the small island, the financial impact is substantial," SolarCity co-founder and CTO, Peter Rive wrote in a blog post about the project. Rive noted that the microgrid also eliminates "the hazards of power intermittency" and makes "outages a thing of the past."
Local businesses, and essential services like the hospital, police, and fire stations, will all be run off solar power, according to EcoWatch.
"Before today, every time we turned on the light, turn on the television, turn on maybe the air conditioner, all of the cash registers in China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia go 'cha-ching,' but not after today," SolarCity market development director Jon Yoshimura told Radio New Zealand. "We will keep more of that money here, where it belongs."
"Ta'u is not a postcard from the future, it's a snapshot of what is possible right now," Rive wrote. "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."
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With the merger of SolarCity and Tesla, and a visionary like Musk at the helm, it looks as future of clean energy is now. As the technology becomes more widespread the cost of solar products will fall dramatically, and thus will begin a true paradigm shift in the distribution of energy.