- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 24 Aug 2017
Tau - the solar powered island
In November 2016, a small island in American Samoa switched almost entirely to solar power.
The island of Ta’u is more than 4,000 miles from the West Coast of the United States and has a population of just 600, but it could demonstrate what can be achieved when determination and strong will demand a shift from fossil fuel-dependency to renewable energy.
The island has constructed a solar power and battery storage-enabled microgrid. This supplies nearly all of the island’s power. The microgrid was provided by contractors SolarCity and Tesla, engineers from whom flew to the island from California to oversee the construction process.
The microgrid has a solar generation capacity of 1.4 megawatts, with 6 megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks.
Heretofore, Ta’u had previously been dependent on more than 100,000 gallons of diesel a year, shipped from the main island of Tutuila. This supply had been prone to disruption due to bad weather and rough seas causing power intermittency and frequenet outages.
Microgrid solutions harnessing solar power and energy storage offer cost savings, as well as being a safer and cleaner alternative to diesel. Ta’u’s microgrid is designed to optimise system performance and maximise savings. The batteries allow stored solar energy to be used at night, with residents hoping this will mean energy rationing is a thing of the past.
The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Interior. The microgrid will be operated by the American Samoa Power Authority.
At around US$80-100 per month, the power bills for an average island household will remain the same, but it is expected that there will be significant financial advantages from being self-sufficient and no longer having to ship diesel to the island. Indeed, neighbouring islands Ofu and Olosega plan to follow T’au’s example.
For more information, see SolarCity.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
From alabaster to travertine – how many types do you know?
Well-designed lighting helps maintain a healthy physiological and psychological balance.
Transferring the risk for obtaining the target BREEAM rating.
A simple but effective way to determine the root cause of an issue.
BSRIA report suggest the European market will double to 415 million Euros by 2023.
Why a wellbeing strategy is vital for property managers.
An ECA briefing for members about the commercial implications of leaving the EU.
A crucial moment on any project - and fraught with danger.
The performance gap from a Northern Ireland perspective.
Book review: Buildings of protestant nonconformity.
Design and testing for health and wellbeing - free download from BRE.