Tesla is helping to power an entire island

Stand back Richard Branson, Necker Island is so 2017. Elon Musk’s Tesla is quietly helping to power an island that runs almost entirely on solar energy. The island of Ta’ū, in American Samoa, is being powered by Musk – the king of one upmanship – and SolarCity, the company acquired by his struggling electric energy empire in 2016.

Ta’ū runs solely on renewable energy, almost 100% of which is solar energy. Electrical energy is generated from the 1.4 megawatts of solar energy available on the SolarCity-developed microgrid. If you’re expecting this solar-run island to be peppered with solar panels, you’d be absolutely right; the 44.31 km² island boasts 5,328 panels and 60 Tesla-branded Powerpacks – the firm’s large commercial battery – which wield the ability to provide 6 megawatt hours of stored energy.

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As you can imagine for an island placed slap-bang in the middle of the South Pacific ocean, the sun isn’t always shining. In fact, weather conditions can be pretty volatile, and its location makes it highly susceptible to storms. This makes sense, given the sheer geographical exposure of Ta’ū (see below). 

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Tesla’s Powerpacks, however, make it possible for the island to run on solar energy even when the rays aren’t beaming down. The set-up is such that the 5,328 solar panels can run the island on solar energy for three days. 

When it comes to recharging, it couldn’t be simpler; the system can perform a full recharge in just seven hours. 

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Meanwhile, the transition to solar energy marks a seminal moment in Ta’ū history. The island previously ran on diesel-fuelled generators, which, consuming 300 gallons of fuel per day each, were expensive, as well as bad for the environment.

Now, the island’s 600 residents will benefit from a healthy injection of solar energy thanks to Tesla’s SolarCity. For its part, the company is hoping to glean more data about how solar power can be used to sustain more densely populated islands. Like, perhaps, the UK? Musk’s eccentricities appear only to be accelerating, so knows where he’s setting his sights next. Watch this space…

Lead image: U.S. Department of the Interior, used under Creative Commons 

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