Island In The Sun: T’au Island’s Microgrid Converted To Solar And Tesla Powerpacks – Video

2 months ago by Eric Loveday 46

The Ta’u island in American Samoa used to be powered with diesel generators, burning 300 gallons of fuel (109,500 gallons a year).

No Sun? Not A Problem

No Sun? Not A Problem

Today, it now runs on nearly 100% solar energy thanks to 5,328 solar panels from SolarCity & 60 Tesla Powerpacks.

The 1.4 megawatt microgrid (over 6 MWh of storage) can cover the electrical needs of the 600 residents of  Ta’u, and can operate independently without sunlight for ~3 days.

“The island of Ta’u in American Samoa, located more than 4,000 miles from the West Coast of the United States, now hosts a solar power and battery storage-enabled microgrid that can supply nearly 100 percent of the island’s power needs from renewable energy. This provides a cost-saving alternative to diesel, removing the hazards of power intermittency and making outages a thing of the past.”

Below: SolarCity also added some further information on the project:

Island in the Sun

There are challenges to living on a remote island – from food scarcity to destructive weather – and the lack of affordable, reliable power is among the greatest. The island of Ta’u in American Samoa, located more than 4,000 miles from the West Coast of the United States, is no stranger to power rationing and outages.

“I recall a time they weren’t able to get the boat out here for two months,” said Keith Ahsoon, a local resident whose family owns one of the food stores on the island. “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.”

The situation is changing. Ta’u now hosts a solar power and battery storage-enabled microgrid that can supply nearly 100 percent of the island’s power needs from renewable energy, providing a cost-saving alternative to diesel, removing the hazards of power intermittency and making outages a thing of the past.

5,328 SolarCity

5,328 solar panels via 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.

Its benefits are life changing for residents of Ta’u. The local hospital, high school and elementary schools, fire and police stations and local businesses no longer need to worry about outages or rationing. But the biggest advantage is cost: Tau’s microgrid replaces diesel generators with more affordable solar energy, and is designed to optimize system performance and maximize savings.

“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.

Like Ta’u, many communities across the globe use diesel as their main source of power. Today, microgrid solutions featuring solar power and energy storage cost less than diesel almost anywhere in the world and are a cleaner, safer alternative. Solar and storage systems also eliminate expenses and issues associated with shipping diesel and provide stable power costs for decades, unlike fluctuating fossil fuel prices – all by simply switching to the power of the sun.

The stability and affordability of power from the new Ta’u microgrid, operated by American Samoa Power Authority, provides energy independence for the nearly 600 residents of Ta’u. The battery system also allows the island to use stored solar energy at night, meaning renewable energy is available for use around the clock.

60 Tesla Powerpacks - good for more than 6 MWh of storage

60 Tesla Powerpacks – good for more than 6 MWh of storage

The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Interior, and is expected to allow the island to save significantly on energy costs. The system is expected to offset the use of more than 109,500 gallons of diesel per year. Factoring in the escalating cost of fuel, along with transporting such mass quantities to the small island, the financial impact is substantial.

“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,” said Ahsoon.

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.

To learn more about microgrid options for your community, please complete the form below and our team will contact you directly.

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47 responses to "Island In The Sun: T’au Island’s Microgrid Converted To Solar And Tesla Powerpacks – Video"

  1. darth says:

    The video says that it is 300 gallons a day for each generator. It is unclear how many generators they had.

    1. mx says:

      That’s a lot of diesel stink.
      You don’t want that in paradise.

    2. mhpr262 says:

      109,500 gallons divided by 365 days equals exactly 300 gallons, so just one (running) generator.

    3. Matt says:

      They have 3 generators but two are standby

  2. Aires says:

    Fantastic! Anyone know the total cost of these system? Thank you

  3. fishhawk says:

    109,500 gallons per year / 365 days per year = 300 gallons per day. If it really is 300 gallons a day per generator, then they have only one.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      Well I think the 300 gallons per day was possibly a ‘peak’ figure. I’m sure they shut the second unit off during off-peak hours – the Diesel installation looks so clean that it itself must have replaced an older installation recently.

      The residents here seem to get by with little electricity – 6000 kwh of storage that would last 3 days with no sunlight? Thats 2000 kwh / day for 600 residents? Or 100 kwh per month per resident? Unless the households are very large that doesn’t sound like much.

      1. GeorgeS says:

        BillH
        “Thats 2000 kwh / day for 600 residents? ”

        that’s around 7 kwh/day for 2 residents. My wife and I use around 27 kwh /day and that’s without any A/C.

        1. Bill Howland says:

          And you are not even including commercial uses such as street lighting, the high school, hospital, or policing.

    2. AlphaEdge says:

      Watch the video, they clearly show two generators.

  4. Mister G says:

    GO TESLA GO…save humanity from our addiction to dirty, toxic, poisonous fossil fuels. For this Thanksgiving I will be thankful for Tesla’s commitment to cleaning up our planet against all odds. Thank you Tesla.

    1. Dr ValueSeeker says:

      Go Tesla Go! 600 people at a time!
      Another 12 million projects like this, and the world will be saved!! Go Elon!

  5. Stephen Hodges says:

    600 residents, 60 Powerpacks… one for every 10 persons. If they are 100kwh each, thats 10kwh storage per person…. not bad

  6. David Murray says:

    I have to wonder.. If they import everything on this island, how do they make money? What do they export?

    1. Ambulator says:

      According to Wikipedia, coconut cream, coconut oil and copra. Tourism is also important.

      The main export used to be taro, but there was a blight.

    2. mhpr262 says:

      Most likely they are heavily subsidized by government, too – tax breaks, welfare etc. It would be hard to exist on such an island otherwise, unless you literally want to live like in the 18th century.

      1. Priusmaniac says:

        Well, an internet link and you get access to e-money by online activity just like anywhere else.

    3. Soaa says:

      They contributed the most perfect capita for our military.

    4. Soaa says:

      They contributed the most per capita for our military.

  7. Someone out there says:

    That’s right, pick the low hanging fruit first. There must be a lot of places like this with high energy costs. I would like to see a wind turbine as well to compliment the installation for when the solar panels don’t generate as much.

    1. Dr ValueSeeker says:

      Yes, yes. Most of the world population lives on these tiny remote islands that can go under with a small tsunami or rise in ocean level.

      1. Nick G says:

        Most of India lives in similar conditions.

    2. Priusmaniac says:

      Here the nice thing is that, without even knowing it, Tesla made a fantastic dress rehearsal of a Mars base Electricity system. They need roughly the same thing with just a few tweaks here and there like PV maximized in KWh/Kg instead of KWh/$ and more UV resistance and colder operation temperature, but that is about it. They could test a system on Earth but at a high altitude location where there is less air pressure and much colder temperature.

    3. All-Purpose Guru says:

      It may only be a small step– but it’s a step. First one island where the impact is tremendous, then a second, then something a little larger, and so on. Eventually electrifying an island like Lanai becomes a possibility, or remote towns in the mountains.

      At some point you end up with Ivanpah and you just go from there.

  8. Kdawg says:

    Here it is on Google maps if you want to check it out in the early stages.

    https://goo.gl/maps/GR5Tdu2TKwq

    1. AlphaEdge says:

      Thanks for that. I already checked Google Earth and could not find it, but I see it now. I presume both Google Earth’s maps are as up to date as Google Maps, and vice versa.

  9. EV Livin' says:

    What happens during a hurricane and a storm surge floods the batteries?

    1. Kalle says:

      Same as when it floods the generator/ fueltank

    2. speculawyer says:

      Well, from looking at the photo it seems they considered that since the batteries appear to be some 50 to 100 feet above sea level and thus out of the way of storm surge.

      But I guess they could be flooded by severe rainfall.

  10. David Lane says:

    This island is a pioneer but it is far from alone. RMI profiled several such examples in this overview from 2015:
    http://www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI-Islands-RenewableMicrogrids-FINAL-20151103.pdf

    Its entitled RENEWABLE MICROGRIDS: PROFILES FROM ISLANDS AND REMOTE
    COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE

    1. lee says:

      appreciated.

  11. speculawyer says:

    They really need to add several wind-turbines. Solar PV and wind actually operate in very complementary ways in that it is often windy when it is not sunny and it is often sunny when it is not windy.

    1. ffbj says:

      I was in the P.I. It was sunny all the time until monsoon season and then it was cloudy all the time. So for 3 months it was raining, just finished raining, or getting ready to rain.
      Maybe they will just use the diesel as back up when they need them.

      1. AlphaEdge says:

        That was my thought as well. The diesel generators will be backups.

        It’s a good setup that they have.

        1. ffbj says:

          Right, because they say almost 100%. The other thing is they have not gone through a wet season yet, December-March. (40″ avg)

          “With an average annual rainfall of 118.96 inches, the state of American Samoa gets 79.8 more inches of rain than the national average (39.17 inches)”

          Of course most storms will drop a lot of rain in a short period and then clear out.

      2. speculawyer says:

        But there was wind during the rain, right?

        1. ffbj says:

          It would depend on the time of the monsoon. Early on, and it’s ending it’s windy but most of the monsoon is fairly quiet. The weather becomes socked in and you don’t see the sun for months.

  12. AlphaEdge says:

    > “The Ta’u island in American Samoa used to be powered with diesel generators, burning 300 gallons of fuel (109,500 gallons a year).

    The video says 300 gallons per day, per generator, for 109,500 per year, but it also shows two generators, and mentions “generators” plural.

    I love stories like this. It warms the cockles of my heart. 🙂

    It would be nice to know, what the cost of the solar installation, and battery storage system is, to see how fast pay back is. The faster of course, the more incentive it is for other islands or remote communities to adopt this.

    1. ffbj says:

      One generator operating continuously and the other, as a backup coming online as needed.
      Payback maybe 4-5 years.

    2. speculawyer says:

      I have been hearing that new large combined solar PV and battery systems can be installed and generate electricity at 14 cents/KWH. Now that is certainly higher than the USA mainland average of around 11 cents/KWH retail but that is absolutely mana from the heavens (literally) for island communities that have had to deal with diesel generated electricity that costs more than 20 cents/KWH. For example, in Hawaii they pay like 33 cents/KWH retail!

  13. AlphaEdge says:

    > “Beach erosions and other noticeable changes are a part of life here.”

    Been going on since the beginning of time, and it’s wrong to assume it’s due to “global warming”.

    Look at the Hawaiian Islands for example. All the oldest islands in the west, get smaller and smaller, due to ongoing wave action, regardless of any climate change.

    1. AlphaEdge says:

      Also wanted to add. That remove plate tectonics, and the oceans would eventually “devour” all the continents, and then only ocean will cover the entire earth.

      It fascinating to think, that plate tectonics, cause a danger in volcanoes, but is important for rising land masses, besides subduction, and our atmosphere gets “replenished” by the gases released by volcanoes.

    2. AlphaEdge says:

      Also want to add, that rain and wind erosion of course are also contributing factors to the “demise” of islands over time.

    3. no comment says:

      there are several problems that global warming cause: 1) sea level rise; 2) (which goes with 1) waves have increased energy when they hit the shore, which erodes the beach even faster. yes, it is true that beach erosion always occurs to some degree. the problem that people are seeing these days is the accelerated rate at which it is occurring.

      probably the best place to see the evidence of global warming is on glaciers. it takes a lot more than a couple of days (or even a couple of years) of unseasonably warm weather to make a glacier retreat. the accelerated rate of glacier retreat and the huge calving of icebergs from tidal glaciers is another disturbing trend that has been observed in recent years.

  14. Four Electrics says:

    All of that pristine, valuable forest, clear-cut for solar panels. Offshore wind or tidal would have been better.

    Unlike with other technologies, battery storage costs grow linearly with capacity. If they wanted to go six days without sun the storage costs would double. With CAES or hydrogen the marginal costs are much less.

  15. Get Real says:

    With CAES or H2, the costs would have been much greater and if you wanted to make H2 from solar you would have needed 5 times the panels which would have resulted in more “clearcutting” according to your fake environmentalism.

    Nice try though on the FUD!

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