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.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Four practical tips to bring sustainability into your building design.
Have a look at these designs for a new cross-laminated timber tower in Toronto.
Geniebelt examine the urgent need for change in construction.
Read our introductory article to the contractor's design portion.
Four ways in which smart cities could make our lives better.
Mayor Sadiq Khan announces new Greener City Fund in drive to make London the first 'National Park City'.
BSRIA announce UKAS accreditation for sound absorption testing.
The full terms of reference are published for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
Read our introductory article into the role and practice of the architect.
Despite dividing opinion since its 1955 completion, Stalin's gift to Poland, the PKiN, is still Warsaw's most recognisible landmark.
Graduate Engineer Brittany Harris asks, what makes a great place to work?
Mayor Sadiq Khan publishes new guidance aimed at fast-tracking affordable housing projects through planning.