He might have his sights set on Mars, but billionaire Elon Musk is also looking to make the planet we’re living on at the moment a little better for the future.
Musk’s SolarCity operation is looking to make solar energy more efficient and affordable, and as a proof of concept, the company and Tesla decided to turn an island into a fully-functioning oasis for solar power. The company has announced the entire island of Ta’u in American Samoa is now running off a 1.4-megawatt micro grid of solar energy panels and batteries designed to supply virtually all the necessary power for the island's approximately 600 residents. The island originally ran off diesel fuel generators, so the solar upgrade should prove more efficient and a drastically better option for the environment (while cutting down on fuel and transport costs, to boot).
“I recall a time they weren’t able to get the boat out here for two months,” Keith Ahsoon, a local resident of the island, said in a statement. “We rely on that boat for everything, including importing diesel for the generators for all of our electricity. Once diesel gets low, we try to save it by using it only for mornings and afternoons. Water systems here also use pumps, everyone in the village uses and depends on that. It’s hard to live not knowing what’s going to happen. I remember growing up using candlelight. And now, in 2016, we were still experiencing the same problems.”
Enter SolarCity. The system on the island uses 5,328 solar panels, plus 60 Tesla Powerpacks batteries for power storage. When fully charged, the system can power the island for three days. It also just takes around seven hours to fully recharge. It’s obviously not quite feasible to power a major city like this right now, but the Ta’u project absolutely shows the viability of this technology on a larger scale. From keeping the hospital running, to the local water system, solar power should eliminate a lot of the problems inherent with potential fuel shortages.
Also, in the event of an apocalypse, be sure to book a boat to Ta’u before the world ends. That sounds like a pretty great place to be.