Tesla plans to supply power to the entire Hawaiian island of Kauai with a massive solar farm and powerful battery packs to store the energy. The project was officially unveiled on Wednesday on Kauai, after statements from Tesla CTO JB Straubel and Hawaii governor David Ige. Tesla will partner with the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) for the ambitious project.
The solar farm, made up of 54,978 panels, can provide 13 megawatts of solar capacity. 272 battery packs, Tesla’s large Powerpack 2 units, store the power generated during the day to be used during the night. The company has estimated that the project will reduce fossil fuel use by roughly 1.6 million gallons annually, with plans to gradually turn on the solar farm in phases.
Tesla’s focus on solar power has grown since its acquisition of SolarCity in November of last year. Even before that, Tesla and SolarCity agreed on a plan to use the 52 MWh Powerpack to power the island of Kauai. KIUC signed a contract with the company to buy 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity for $.139 for 20 years.
Tesla is already providing power to the entire island of Ta’u in American Samoa, using solar power along with its Powerpack batteries. Pacific islands are the perfect setting for the installation of solar panels and large scale projects, inherently unable to bring in natural gas via a pipeline, or coal by way of railroads. Traditionally, islands such as Kauai have generated electricity by shipping in large quantities of diesel fuel. Diesel emissions have been shown to contribute to health problems such as cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and to air pollution and global climate change.
In recent years, increased use of solar power has greatly reduced the need to use fossil fuels like diesel during the daylight hours – but at night, there have been few alternatives. This is where Tesla’s Powerpack, able to store solar power during the day and to be discharged at night, becomes important.
After its acquisition of SolarCity last year, Tesla said in a statement that it “will work with energy providers around the world seeking to overcome barriers in the way of building a sustainable, renewable energy grid of their own.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a tour of their Nevada Gigafactory last year that energy storage is “something I think will probably be as big as the car business long term.”
He added that he believes it “will actually have a growth rate probably several times that of what the car business is per year. The growth in stationary storage is really under appreciated. That’s a super-exponential growth rate.”