Tesla’s SolarCity Powers Entire Island To Show Off Strength Of New Solar Panels

Tesla Motors is powering an entire island in the South Pacific Ocean with solar power, according to a post in the SolarCity blog.

“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 post begins. “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.”

Ta’u is home to approximately 600 residents.

“I recall a time they weren’t able to get the boat out here for two months,” Keith Ahsoon, a resident whose family owns a grocery store on the island, told SolarCity. “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.”

The islanders have previously relied on the diesel-powered generators for their water supply as well, which caused additional stress for the community.

“It’s hard to live not knowing what’s going to happen,” Ahsoon explained. “I remember growing up using candlelight. And now, in 2016, we were still experiencing the same problems.”

The new microgrid that Tesla and SolarCity recently completed on the island could change all of that.

The microgrid is powered by 1.4 megawatts of solar energy produced by SolarCity and Tesla panels, as well as 6 megawatt hours of battery energy stored in 60 Tesla Powerpacks.

Construction of the microgrid took just one year from start to finish, according to the SolarCity post.

“This is part of making history. This project will help lessen the carbon footprint of the world,” Ahsoon said. “Living on an island, you experience global warming firsthand. Beach erosions and other noticeable changes are a part of life here.”

He added that the SolarCity Ta’u microgrid project “will hopefully set a good example for everyone else to follow.”

The project was funded by American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Interior. SolarCity estimates that it will “offset the use of more than 109,500 gallons of diesel per year.” Reducing fuel costs at that level would have a substantially positive impact on the island’s economy.

Tesla Motors, which is headed by former PayPal entrepreneur and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, finalized the acquisition of SolarCity on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Tesla Motors Inc. on Monday said it closed the acquisition of SolarCity Corp., paving the way for Chief Executive Elon Musk to begin integrating the solar-panel business into the auto maker to create an integrated clean-energy company,” Tim Higgins wrote for the Journal. “Mr. Musk, who was chairman of SolarCity and the largest shareholder of both companies, wants to target customers with solar panels and batteries to let them power their homes and electric cars with clean energy.”

Musk’s work at SpaceX and Tesla Motors, which produced the first solar sports car — the Tesla Roadster — in 2008, has been on the cutting edge of space travel and solar and renewable energy developments for several years.

At times Musk has stirred controversy with his out-of-the-box thinking. For instance, as Vox reported in June, he has asserted that all of humanity is living within a virtual reality simulation and estimated that “the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.”

However, it is exactly that type of unorthodox thinking that has led to his visionary success.

“Ta’u is not a postcard from the future, it’s a snapshot of what is possible right now,” the SolarCity blog post exclaims. “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.”

[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]