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Renewable energy is allowing Ta'u to ditch its deisel dependence. (Photo: American Samoa Power Authority)

Giving "Snapshot of What's Possible," One Island Abandons Fossil Fuels

'This is part of making history'

Andrea Germanos

Near the end of what may "very likely" be the hottest year on record, a bright spot in the battle to address climate change has emerged more than 4,000 miles from the U.S. West Coast.

The island of Ta'u, located in American Samoa, will now be able to ditch its diesel reliance and run almost entirely on renewable energy thanks to "a large solar panel array, microgrid, and batteries installed by SolarCity and Tesla," as UPI reported.

SolarCity was acquired this month by Elon Musk's Tesla.

Up to now, as the Guardian reports Monday,

Ta'u has depended on over 100,000 gallons of diesel shipped in from the main island of Tutuila to survive, using it to power homes, government buildings, and—crucially—water pumps.

When bad weather or rough seas prevented the ferry docking, which was often, the island came to a virtual stand-still, leaving Ta’u's 600 residents unable to work efficiently, go to school, or leave their usually idyllic paradise.

But with the new system, which boasts over 5,000 solar panels and Tesla Powerpacks capable of 6 megawatt-hours of energy storage in place, the island will be able to replace 109,500 gallons of diesel per year—and forgo the risks that posed.

"Ta'u is not a postcard from the future, it's a snapshot of what is possible right now," Peter Rive, SolarCity’s co-founder and chief technology officer, wrote last week.

For local resident Keith Ahsoon, "This is part of making history. This project will help lessen the carbon footprint of the world. 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."

Indeed, it speaks to the kind of action a group of countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change called for earlier this month.

The Climate Vulnerable Form (CVF)—which includes Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, the Marshall Islands, and Yemen—outlined at the end of the United Nations climate change conference known as COP22 a vision that includes achieving 100 percent renewable energy by no later than 2050.

Edgar Gutiérrez, environment and energy minister of Costa Rica, said, "We don't know what countries are still waiting for to move towards net carbon neutrality and 100 percent renewable energy. All parties should start the transition; otherwise we will all suffer."

Their initiative drew praise from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said it marked "the type of bold leadership by example the world needs right now on climate change. If countries that have done the least to cause climate change can take such strong steps, so can others. We need action by all, on behalf of all."

Click below to see a short video from SolarCity and Tesla on the Ta'u microgrid:


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