Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk is flexing his clean energy prowess by wiring the entire American Samoan island of Ta'u with a microgrid of solar panels. The announcement caps a week that saw Tesla's $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity.
"This project will help lessen the carbon footprint of the world," said Keith Ahsoon, a resident of Ta’u, reports The Verge. "Living on an island, you experience global warming firsthand. Beach erosions and other noticeable changes are a part of life here. It’s a serious problem, and this project will hopefully set a good example for everyone else to follow."
Ta’u was previously powered by diesel generators. The conversion to solar energy required 5,328 solar panels for the island’s 600 residents and 60 Tesla batteries to store excess energy.
According to Radio New Zealand, the new energy system cost $8 million and placed enough solar panels to create 1,400 kilowatts, along with 6,000-kilowatt-hours of battery storage capacity.
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The project was funded by the government of American Samoa and the U.S. Department of Interior, notes The Verge.
"Factoring in the escalating cost of fuel, along with transporting such mass quantities to the small island, the financial impact is substantial,” Tesla wrote in a company statement.
"Before today, every time we turned on the light, turn on the television, turn on maybe the air conditioner, all of the cash registers in China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia go 'cha-ching,' but not after today,” Jon Yoshimura, the contractor for the project, told Radio New Zealand. “We will keep more of that money here, where it belongs."
The nearby island of Ofu-Olosega, seven miles west of Ta’u, will receive a similar energy grid conversion next month. The island is home to 500 inhabitants.