Ta’u, one of five volcanic islands and two atolls that makes up the unincorporated U.S. territory of American Samoa, had relied heavily on diesel generation for electricity until a solar+storage microgrid was installed in 2016. The 17-square mile island, which sits 4,000 miles from the United States’ west coast in the South Pacific Ocean, burned 300 gallons of diesel a day – totaling more than 100,000 gallons a year – to power the island. With high fuel costs and long transportation distances to import diesel, the island’s 790 residents frequently experienced fuel shortages, power rationing, and outages.
Now, the island’s electricity is almost entirely provided by the sun, with the installation by SolarCity of 5,328 solar PV panels, totaling 1.4 megawatts. Solar power from the panels is also being stored by 60 Tesla Powerpacks totaling 6 megawatt-hours of energy storage. The Tesla battery system allows residents to use stored solar energy for a reliable electricity supply throughout the night, and the batteries can supply power to the entire island for three days without sunlight in the event of extended cloud cover, which is exceedingly rare in American Samoa. The battery system can fully recharge in seven hours. The new solar+storage system also helps reduce air pollution, lowers the island’s contribution to global climate change, and helps meet its goal to be completely free of fossil fuels.
“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 local resident Keith Ahsoon in a SolarCity blog post about the project.
The project was supported with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – West Coast Collaboration, which granted $70,715 under its Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Clean Diesel Program. The U.S. Department of Interior also supported the project with a $927,500 grant through its Empowering Insular Communities Program. The American Samoa Economic Development Authority helped fund the project as well. Funds were granted to the local utility, American Samoa Power Authority, who helped fund and develop the project.
Learn more about this project in a webinar on Thursday February 16.
News item from Clean Energy Group