The Pacific Islands: A Renewables Challenge
The island of Ta’u in American Samoa once relied on diesel fuel to supply electricity. Residents experienced consistent power rationing and outages, and key services like hospitals and schools hinged on infrequent fuel imports. Now, the island runs on a completely renewable microgrid that meets 100% of residents’ energy needs through solar power and battery storage.
In 2016, the founders of Maui, Hawaii-based company Mana Pacific helped design and implement Ta’u’s solar-energy microgrid composed of over 5,300 solar panels. This vast solar farm amounts to 1.4 megawatts of power generation capacity. Six megawatt-hours of battery storage and load balancing systems enable the microgrid to store excess energy for deployment when the sun isn’t shining. As a result, the island can stay powered for three full days with no sunlight.
The microgrid eliminates Ta’u’s need for power rationing and drastically reduces the probability of outages. It also provided massive savings and greater resilience for Ta’u, as the island no longer relies on unreliable diesel imports. Ta’u’s microgrid also has several adaptations to address the community’s vulnerability to natural disasters: for instance, the solar panels are designed to withstand winds from a Category 5 hurricane.
Mana Pacific: Deploying Renewable Energy in the Pacific Islands
Building on the project in Ta’u, Mana Pacific was founded in 2020 with the aim to provide resilient, 100% renewable energy systems to over 4 million Pacific Island households. Sourcing funding and resources for these projects is particularly challenging: developers are not as interested in incurring the cost to supply small-scale projects in remote areas, and traditional climate finance models are more suited to larger economies and cheaper projects. Through partnerships with Pacific Island government officials, regional NGOs, energy and technology companies, and additional stakeholders, Mana Pacific seeks to deploy resilient renewable energy projects in the Pacific Islands. Ultimately, they aim to help Pacific Island nations meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement as well as other key climate goals while engaging local communities.
Mana Pacific’s Current Project: The Moana Pledge
The Moana Pledge is a commitment to standardizing renewable energy project deployment, engaging relevant stakeholders, and accelerating project design and execution. Mana Pacific is working with island leaders to sign the pledge and aggregate the demand of many Pacific Island nations. Mana Pacific is aggregating this demand to generate increased interest in supplying and funding self-sufficient microgrid systems for more Pacific Islanders. They also plan to employ and train local workers to build renewable energy systems and to partner with schools to foster local economic development and ease the transition to renewable energy. Currently, Mana Pacific is working on the Moana Pledge Software Platform to help Pacific Island nations access the resources to design, develop, and fund renewable energy projects.
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 Amelia Heathman, “This Island Is Powered Entirely by Solar Panels and Batteries Thanks to SolarCity,” WIRED UK, November 22, 2016; https://www.wired.co.uk/article/island-tau-solar-energy-solarcity.
 SolarCity and Tesla: Ta'u Microgrid, YouTube (SolarCity, 2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZjEvwrDXn0&t=2s.
 Carolyn Fortuna, “Why Tesla's Microgrid Project Is Life Changing for Ta'u's Island Community,” Teslarati, June 10, 2017, https://www.teslarati.com/life-changing-impacts-tesla-energy-island-community/.
 Daniel Lin, “How a Pacific Island Changed from Diesel to 100% Solar Power,” Science (National Geographic, May 3, 2021), https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/tau-american-samoa-solar-power-microgrid-tesla-solarcity.
Blog Image Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/tau-american-samoa-solar-power-microgrid-tesla-solarcity