Pacific Island of Ta’u to Set Renewable Energy Example for the Neighboring Islands
By admin November 29, 2016

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Ta’u is an island located 4,000 miles from the west coast of the United States in the South Pacific Ocean. For a long time, Ta’ u has relied on diesel energy in order to power homes, government buildings and also, water pumps. It imported nearly 100,000 gallons of diesel from the main island of Tutuila, without which its buildings including schools were not able to run efficiently. The possibility of remaining without power was often high due to unpleasant weather conditions that prevented the ferry to conclude its shipment.

Indeed, Ta’u is not the only Pacific Island to have experienced these problems. In fact the territory of American Samoa, comprising of mainly five islands and two atolls – Tutuila, Aunu’u, Ofu, Olosega, Tau, Swains and Rose Atoll – is highly inclined to bad weather and rough seas that consequently influence the economy and business in these islands.

However, two years ago, Ta’u started the construction of a 1.4-megawatt micro-grid. The project immediately found difficulties due to poor weather, transport delays among other technical and logistic difficulties. Engineers from Tesla and SolarCity helped oversee the construction, mainly implemented by locals. “We want all of American Samoa to be solar-powered by 2040,” said Mr. Utu Abe Malae, Executive Director of the American Samoa Power Authority. Mr Malae continued underlining the weather difficulties faced by the local workers during the building of the solar grid.

Today, Ta’u is not long reliant on diesel as it is fully powering homes and businesses through more than 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla power packs. The island is supplying itself with solar energy, despite the high cost. “It is ideal if governments absorb that cost, especially for these remote communities that would otherwise be totally reliant on non-renewable energy sources,” Mr. Malae said.

Interesting enough is the fact that five of those fifteen workers employed for the construction of the solar grid were very low skilled at the time they signed the contract. Once finalised the construction, these workers have gained enough expertise to become full-time solar power technicians. Therefore, the construction of the grid has not only free the island of Ta’u from its non-renewable energy sources dependency, but it also provided new job opportunities for the locals.

Indeed, Ta’u should represent a very important example for the rest of the islands in the American Samoa territory as most of them get six to eight sunshine hours a day meaning nearly 1,000 watts per square metre. Despite the high power bills, islanders reacted very positively to the construction of the solar grid as a more reliable and self-sufficient system, which, in case of emergency, is able to store enough energy to power the island for three days.

It already seems that Ta’u has set that example among its neighbours as both the islands of Ofu and Olosega are planning to develop a similar system that according to Mr. Malae: ”represents the future for our islands”.

For more information:

Why the South Pacific Island Kiribati is making a big bet on solar

Pacific Island sets renewable energy record

The challenge of unlocking solar capacity in the Pacific Islands

Pacific island powered almost entirely by solar micro grid

South Pacific Island ditches fossil fuels to run entirely on solar power

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