Tesla has finally acquired SolarCity in accordance with CEO Elon Musk’s Master Plan. With both the companies currently debt-ridden and facing a cash crunch, a lot needs to be done before the Master Plan can come anywhere near materializing. However, to celebrate its $2.6 Billion acquisition, the company has announced a major solar energy project that involved lighting up the whole island of Ta’u in American Samoa.
The Ta’u Island in American Samoa with its 6,00 residents, used to obtain its power from diesel generators that also required the import of the fuel through shipping containers. Tesla-SolarCity set to work on solving the issue last year. Together, the companies have managed to create a micro-grid for the island that comprises of 5,328 SolarCity panels and 60 Tesla Powerpacks batteries for storage.
Announcing the Micro-Grid, a SolarCity blog post said,
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.
The newly finished grid has provided the island with 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity and 6 megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks. To put the above data in terms of usage, the island can now stay fully powered for three days without sunlight, with the grid recharging to full capacity in just seven hours. Now, not only can the hospital and the school operate without any fear of sudden outages, but the money spent in importing the 100,000 gallons or so of diesel every year, will also be saved.
The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Interior. This just goes to show how serious governments are about actually implementing solar power in places that rely upon other, non-renewable sources for their energy needs.
The company is not stopping here though.
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.
The project is important because it will be the first time that a separate geographical body with considerable human presence will be powered for the most part, using Tesla-SolarCity’s combined technologies. Interestingly, this also gives us a look at what the companies are capable of doing when joining forces and the timing of the announcement suggests that Tesla also want to make a statement along similar lines.
Solar power is certainly the future. Lighting up the Ta’u Island in American Samoa using solar panels has not only given its resident greater convenience and more hope, but the event also bodes well for the future of Elon Musk’s “Master Plan”.