While there is so much news about Tesla’s vehicles, and sometimes its US rooftop solar business, it’s easy to forget that Tesla continues to bring stable electricity to many parts of the world that rely on diesel or have unstable access to electricity.
Many people watched a 60 Minutes interview with Elon Musk and how he was moved to tears over the plight of the people of Australia who were trapped in a power crisis. He explained that it was easily fixable, and today, Tesla has helped by installing the world’s largest battery there.
This battery pack saved the Australian people $40 million within its first year of operation. It has helped previous victims of unreliable power sources that led to the 2016 statewide blackout avoid that fate again. A bet from Elon Musk and inspired by Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brooks in 2017 made sure the Australian people were the ultimate winners.
Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 10, 2017
In 2017, Tesla helped the islands of Samoa by installing Powerpacks. The goal was to store the unlimited abundance of solar energy that would have been lost without a way to save it, while also providing grid stability to the local utility providers. This was an $8 million project that the US Department of Interior and American Samoa Power Authority funded.
For those who don’t realize it, the Territory of American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Right now, the citizens of American Samoa are not American Citizens but are considered US Nationals. Either way, it is perfectly feasible that the US Department of Interior help cover the cost of providing stable electricity to our own territories.
The National Geographic points out that the installation of these Powerpacks was not easy. Ta’u, one of the islands in the nation, is 4,000 miles away from California. Also, Tesla had to consider the extreme humidity and built the system to withstand the winds of a Category 5 hurricane.
Imagine having these Powerpacks deployed to areas that are in “hurricane alley.”
Prior to the installation of the Tesla Powerpacks, local utilities were highly dependent on the use of diesel generators. Burning diesel fuel is not only bad for the environment, but it also makes people dependent on the shipment of oil, food, and supplies. And when you depend on ships for your survival, your dependence is also upon the weather. This means that if there is a weather crisis or mechanical failures, the local people would have to be creative in rationing food and fuel. According to that National Geographic article, this was a regular occurrence.
Fontoi Perelini, the project manager for the utility, told Fast Company that, “Stability has been achieved, but we’re still working on least cost of operation,”
The overall goal is to eliminate the use of diesel and move away from using the diesel at times when there’s a lot of renewable energy available. This is enabled by Tesla’s grid controller system, which can be customized for any grid. The software integrates everything and adds autonomy, meaning that it directs how energy generation and storage are used on a minigrid or microgrid and does it autonomously. Tesla shared with CleanTechnica more details of the grid controller that you can read here.
Imagine living in a country where you go 18 hours a day without any electricity. You can’t charge your phone. You can’t turn on the light. There is no A/C or heat to keep the room temperature comfortable. There’s no internet, no way to even cook if your stove is electric.
Bloomberg just reported on news we broke in June, that Zimbabwe’s largest mobile phone company, Econet Wireless Ltd, has partnered with Tesla to help keep its base stations running. Econet isn’t just a mobile phone company, but also helps provide internet access, payment solutions, public payphones, and was even the first to launch 3G data services in Zimbabwe.
Communication is definitely key, especially in places that don’t have that much electricity. Norman Mayo, CEO of Distributed Power of Africa, told Bloomberg that, “Telecommunications have become the lifeblood of the economy.”
Tesla is installing 520 Powerwall batteries, and once this project is complete, Distributed Power hopes to roll the project out to other countries that are lacking stable power, such as Zambia, Lesotho, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Not only did Tesla provide disaster relief after Hurricane Maria devastated this beautiful US territory, but Tesla is working on 11,000 projects in Puerto Rico. Tesla’s solar energy efforts are continuing to play a huge role in Puerto Rico’s rebuilding of its energy infrastructure. After Hurricane Maria, 51,000 people were left without power.
Phys.org published an article that interviewed a few residents of Puerto Rico and how they were inspired by Tesla to install solar and batteries. An electronics technician told PhysOrg, “This can pull us out of the mess we’re in. There’s nothing wrong with having a vision of the future. It’s time to start making changes.”
In June of 2019, Utility Dive reported that Puerto Rico was introducing microgrids to prevent a repeat of Hurricane Maria.
The fact that Tesla is able to create Powerpacks that can withstand the winds of a category 5 hurricane can be life-saving. Perhaps one day, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, shelters (both animal and evacuation/storm shelters) could be powered by these Powerpacks.
Moving away from a hurricane-prone area is not a solution. The solution is to evolve. Evolve in the way we handle these disasters, evolve in the way we consume energy, and evolve in the way we react to disasters. In areas where evacuation is impossible due to people not being able to afford to evacuate, perhaps having shelters with Powerpacks installed in place is a solution.
Hurricanes aren’t the only disasters out there we all face. Fires, tornados, mudslides, volcanic eruptions, and more threaten people. Humanity has evolved to survive these, but technology such as Tesla’s Powerpacks can evolve the way we plan, react to, and recover from these types of disasters.