Solar power as we know it today has its origins in the 1950s. Since then it has come a long way as an alternative to fossil fuels. But, it's still not a realistic way for most of us in the UK to heat or power our homes. To show what solar can potentially do for households, Tesla have supplied the residents of an entire island with power, using only batteries and solar energy.
How do you go about powering an island?
It started in November 2016 when Tesla bought SolarCity – a world leader in producing solar panels and energy systems. Together, they set out to provide solar energy for the 800 residents and 600 homes on the island of Ta’u’ in American Samoa.
The companies installed a new solar energy system made from over 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpacks. This was more than enough to provide the residents with the clean and renewable energy they needed
Ta’u now creates 1.4 megawatts of solar generated power. The 60 Tesla batteries are big enough to store six megawatt hours of energy. Simply put, the batteries allow the island to go three whole days without needing to generate any energy.
The big switch to renewable energy
Before the switch to solar power, residents had been forced to power their homes using expensive diesel generators, spending US$400,000 each year on fuel imported from the United States. A single generator would produce 1300 tonnes of CO2 in a year, the same amount an average car would produce in six years. This also meant that when diesel supplies were running low, they would have to ration it, only using energy for their most essential needs.
The residents of Ta’u are now reaping the rewards of solar energy. The switch away from fossil fuels is helping to lower the costs of powering the island, make its people more independent, and assist in lowering their carbon footprint by using less fuel.
Keith Ahsoon, a local on the island, hopes that the project will inspire changes elsewhere in the world: “Living here, you experience global warming first-hand. Beach erosions and other noticeable changes are a part of daily life here. It's a serious problem, and this project will hopefully set a good example for everyone else to follow," he told the SolarCity website.
It seems this example is already being followed, with Tesla already installing 300MWh of batteries around the world, and many more projects being set-up to help combat global warming.
Renewable energy is developing quickly, both for commercial and residential uses. If you want to help combat climate change at home, then it might be worth checking how effective your current boiler is and looking at a few tips for energy saving at home.