Video of the week: SolarCity goes South Pacific

Our video this week comes from SolarCity, which has just unveiled the microgrid it has installed on Ta’u, a Pacific island that is part of American Samoa.

Home to around 600 residents, Ta’u has historically been powered by diesel generators, each of which guzzles about 300 gallons a day. On top of that, the fuel needs to be transported to the island regularly, adding to both the cost and inefficiency of generation, and risking power outages when weather prevents ships from docking.

The new microgrid will solve many of these problems, meeting almost 100 per cent of the island’s energy requirements. Over the past year SolarCity has installed 5,328 solar panels, providing 1.4MW of capacity. Storage comes courtesy of Tesla, whose merger with SolarCity was confirmed this week. Sixty of its Powerpack’s will deliver 6MW hours of backup power, enough to keep the lights on in Ta’u for three days without sun. Just seven hours of sunlight is enough to fully charge the battery system.

“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 Keith Ahsoon, a Ta’u resident whose family runs a local food store.

The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Interior. SolarCity claims the project should allow the island to save significantly on energy costs, as well as reduce consumption of diesel by 109,500 gallons per year.

“This is part of making history,” said Ashoon. “This project will help lessen the carbon footprint of the world. Living on an island, you experience global warming first-hand. 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.”