The American Samoa Island of Ta’u used to be entirely dependent on diesel power
The remote American Samoa island of Ta’u, located about 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii and about 4,800 miles from the US mainland, used to depend entirely on imported diesel fuel for its electricity. But since last November, the energy needs of its 600 residents are totally covered by solar power. In a project that took less than a year to develop and execute, an array of 5,328 solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpacks were installed. Tesla and SolarCity created a 1.4 MW microgrid with a storage capacity of 6MWh, that can cover the island’s power needs for 3 full days without sun. (After a cloudy day, the microgrid absorbs enough solar energy in just 7 hours of sunlight to top the Powerpacks back up to 100% capacity). The project was funded by the American Samoa Power Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of the Interior, and is expected to allow the island to save significantly on energy costs.
Fossil fuel dependence
Up to now, islanders had to cope with various challenges associated with living in such a remote location and diesel supply was one of them. Ta’u has depended on over 100,000 gallons of diesel shipped in from the main island of Tutuila to survive, and these shipments have been estimated to cost around $400,000 a year. The good news is that such challenges belong in the past.
‘It is fantastic what they have done, and they should provide a working model for other Pacific island countries to study, as most get six to eight sunshine hours a day, 1,000 W per m2 – which is a resource that is otherwise wasted’, said Associate Professor Ashton Patridge from the faculty of engineering at Auckland University. ‘The cost of setup for solar is high and there has been a push-back against that. But it is ideal if governments absorb that cost, especially for these remote communities that would otherwise be totally reliant on non-renewable energy sources’, he added.
‘We want all of American Samoa to be solar-powered by 2040 – but Ta’u has been the priority and test-run’, said Utu Abe Malae, executive director of the American Samoa Power Authority.
Source: The Guardian