Thanks to Tesla and SolarCity, an "island in the Sun" deep in the South Pacific Ocean is being powered almost entirely by solar energy.
The island of Ta‘ū and its 600 residents, some 4,000 miles from the United States’ West Coast in American Samoa, now have their electricity nearly 100 percent supplied by a microgrid of battery storage systems and a solar power plant.
The whole project took under a year to implement and now consists of a 1.4-megawatt microgrid of 5,328 solar panels. Although Ta‘ū is as close as you’ll get to a sun-soaked paradise, that’s technically enough energy to last them three days without sunlight.
The project is a collaboration between SolarCity and Tesla. Their announcement neatly ties in with the news that Elon Musk’s venture Tesla is officially merging with his cousins’ company SolarCity this week, in a deal valued at around $2 billion. The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Interior.
The locals are hoping it will sort out their decades of struggle with unreliable electricity supplies and put an end to their blackout blues.
“I remember growing up using candlelight. And now, in 2016, we were still experiencing the same problems,” local grocery store owner Keith Ahsoon said in a SolarCity blog post. “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... Water systems here also use pumps, everyone in the village uses and depends on that."
Best of all, the program will also save locals money on their electricity bills and will offset around 109,500 gallons of diesel each year.
“Ta’u is not a postcard from the future, it’s a snapshot of what is possible right now," said SolarCity.
They’re hoping other small islands will follow suit, tempted by the eco-friendly benefits, reliable energy supply, and more pleasant energy bill. Although this is a small project on the grand scale of Earth’s fossil fuel consumption, it serves as an exciting venture into how countries could implement widespread solar power energy in the not-so-distant future.