A new Tesla video titled “Tesla Powerpack in Samoa” offers an uplifting message about the power and promise of renewable energy in the world’s most remote regions. American Samoa has long been dependent on diesel power for electricity generation, but the territory is beginning a transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy independence.
The American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee has adopted a goal of getting 50% of American Samoa’s energy from renewable energy resources by 2025 and 100% by 2040. Tesla energy technology is contributing significantly to these American Samoa efforts.
American Samoa’s Energy Background: A Primer
The need for American Samoa to develop alternatives to its nearly 100% fossil fuel reliance for energy rose exponentially in the last decade. With constantly fluctuating energy prices, the September 2009 earthquake and tsunami, and new understandings about the place and importance of renewable energy for climate change action, American Samoa has dedicated itself to implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy technology.
The near total destruction of the territory’s power stations was devastating for the American Samoan islanders, but their resilience transcended challenge and placed the island in a position to rebuild in ways that would infuse 21st century clean energy independence. The American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee, in particular, took on the task of addressing the state problematic of energy, local environmental challenges, and the island’s geographic isolation.
Soon, it was evident that non-renewable resources were extremely limited and subject to large volatility in pricing and availability. Because energy security is fundamental to American Samoa’s economic future and quality of living, the committee dedicated itself to creating a stable investment atmosphere where quality of life for residents and visitors was part of a larger energy equation. Greater energy diversity was envisioned, including through the use of American Samoa’s indigenous resources.
In 2017, American Samoa received a $1,163,228 grant from the US Department of Interior. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said at the time that the Trump administration recognized that “the cost of electricity in the US territories is 3 times higher, on average, than the US national average.”
The small island nation is now in the process of capturing an abundant amount of renewable energy and also providing grid stability to the local utilities.
The “Tesla Powerpack in Samoa” YouTube Video Deconstructed
In the last 12 months, Tesla has introduced the scalable Powerpack battery storage solution to American Samoa. The Tesla Powerpack in Samoa installations at the Fiaga Power Station and the Faleolo International Airport afford the local power grid system with 13.6 MWh of energy storage and the ability to integrate it with their current solar, wind, and hydropower farms.
The Tesla Powerpack in Samoa YouTube video begins with a globe that spins and lands in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. A high white clouded sky frames a mountain covered with lush vegetation. The words “Samoa is transitioning to 100% sustainable energy” appear. A helicopter flies over thick green highlands with a waterfall cascading down hundreds of feet in the distance. “Solar” enters the new screen with accompanying vistas of solar panels. So, too, does a mountain reach up from the plain. A map is superimposed over the visuals, and, as the different renewable energy examples fly in, it becomes clear that several areas of Samoa are drawing upon Tesla’s energy technology. “Hydro” is the next reference to a renewable energy source, and a lake is cradled by sloping green mountainsides and a dam. “Wind” is the final renewable energy reference in this section of the YouTube video, and a vertical camera shot peers upward and into the slapping blades of a wind turbine.
The Tesla Powerpack in Samoa allows energy produced in various parts of the day – such as during the hours where the sun emits the most energy – to be stored and used in periods of the day where energy production is lower but consumption is higher – such as night time.
The YouTube video continues with a new phrase on the screen, “Integrated with 13.6 MWh of energy storage.” The Tesla energy storage facility hovers in the background. A new section begins — “At two Tesla Powerpack sites.” The video transitions to a diagram of electrical meters rising over a deep green series of mountains. “Optimized by the Tesla Controller…” initiates a movement into a data chart diagram, with slope running significantly downward, before the kicker — “… to decrease diesel consumption.”
The Grid Controller is a Tesla software solution that dictates how the various energy generation and storage assets on a mini-grid, microgrid, or utility-scale grid play together. In the case of American Samoa, renewable energy assets are all tied together by the Tesla Grid Controller, which gives the local utility real-time control from a single, intelligent, connected solution. The Grid Controller takes the inputs and, by default, attempts to automatically balance the utilization of storage and renewable generation to make the grid more resilient.
In the Tesla Powerpack in Samoa YouTube, the diagram slope runs quickly upward, continuing the discussion of the Grid Controller to “increase renewable energy.” A series of energy storage units is featured. “The Grid Controller gives the utility real-time control over the grid.” Since the Grid Controller has been digitally woven into the grid in Samoa and directs all renewable energy elements, it converts disparate generating units into a cohesive working system. The words “stability,” “reliability,” and “security” glow below the statement and set off a row of Tesla Powerpacks in Samoa.
An August, 2018 update from the US Energy Administration points out the extremely high costs of electricity generation in Samoa. With a population around 100,000 persons, controlling various renewable energy elements becomes crucial to American Samoa as more and more renewables are added to the grid.
“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,” JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, shared with Fast Company. “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.”
The “Tesla Powerpack in Samoa” YouTube video continues with another helicopter flyover and a focal point of a luxury yacht. The general statement, “Samoans benefit from clean energy 24/7,” frames a series of shots about American Samoa’s people. A city passes the camera’s aerial eye, and the scene switches to two elementary-aged children with big smiles and arms embracing each other. These are followed by a mid-shot of a teenager with head tilted and slight grin. A village center with other children playing is in the background. The scene shifts to a sunrise and the sun’s rays piercing the billowing morning clouds. Beneath the stunning sky moving left to right on the ocean is a canoe with two paddlers. It is a traditional view of Samoa juxtaposed with the previous village life depictions.
The inference is that, as the Tesla Grid Controller accumulates more data and is able to make necessary adjustments as the need arises, grid reliability will increase and the lives of American Samoans will be easier and more satisfying.
“This project will help lessen the carbon footprint of the world. Living on an island, you experience global warming firsthand,” said local resident Keith Ahsoon. “It’s a serious problem, and this project will hopefully set a good example for everyone else to follow.”
The video ends with the white Tesla logo over a solid black background.
- Up until 2017, American Samoa had used imported fossil fuels for almost all of the territory’s energy needs, including transportation, water treatment, and most of its electric power generation.
- A significant amount of American Samoa’s electricity is used to pump and treat drinking water and to collect, pump, and treat wastewater.
- Electricity prices in American Samoa vary with world petroleum prices; in mid-2017, they were comparable to Hawaii’s rates.
- In 2016, the largest island in American Samoa’s Manu’a group, Ta’u, converted to 100% solar PV electricity generation, replacing the use of about 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.