Samoa is going 100% renewable – with the help of Tesla

The island nation of Samoa plans to run on 100% renewable energy by 2025, and the electric car giant Tesla are helping them achieve that goal.

The small country, home to around 200,000 people, previously relied on expensive imported diesel for most of their electricity – in 2012 alone they had to import 95 million litres of the stuff. But cost isn’t the only issue – island nations like Samoa are also at particular risk from the effects of climate change.

In recent years Samoa has invested heavily in renewable energy, with five large solar power plants, a wind farm and hydro-electricity plants. But this presented the country with a new challenge – effectively storing and re-distributing all that energy. That’s where Tesla came in, who have installed 2 of its Powerpack storage systems providing 13.6 MWh of storage. More importantly, they have implemented grid controller software that can react to a spike in demand in a fraction of a second.

“If a big cloud comes over the island and the solar drops very quickly, we can control the battery to make up the difference so we don’t have to start a generator immediately, and we don’t have to keep a generator running even when it might not be needed,” explains JB Straubel, chief technical officer at Tesla.

The software does a job that would be near-impossible for a human. “You have to respond in fractions of a second and you have to be kind of watching a lot of different data sources at the same time and then responding quickly… so it’s sort of the perfect application for a computer to do exactly that.”

solar farm
One of Samoa’s many solar farms. Image Source:Tesla

Since the system was installed earlier this summer power outages have become a thing of the past, and although diesel generators are still needed, usage is way down.
Tesla hope that the technology can be used in other parts of the world as renewable energy use increases.

“We’re going to see a lot more of the problems Samoa was struggling with coming up because they were getting to such high renewable percentages,” says Straubel. “So it’s really an indicator of the future. These are the types of problems and systems that we will definitely see in more parts of the world and in bigger and bigger grids.”

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