James Vincent for The Verge: Tesla completed its $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity this week, and, to celebrate, the company has announced a major solar energy project: wiring up the whole island of Ta’u in American Samoa. Previously, the island ran on diesel generators, but over the past year Tesla has installed a microgrid of solar energy panels and batteries that will supply "nearly 100 percent" of power needs for Ta’u’s 600 residents.
The project seems intended to show off the potential benefits of the SolarCity acquisition, with Ta’u’s microgrid comprised of 5,328 solar panels from SolarCity and Tesla, along with 60 Tesla Powerpacks batteries for storage. But buying SolarCity remains a risky move for Tesla, with the purchase including billions of dollars of debt for a company that's far from profitable (SolarCity spends $6 for every $1 it makes in sales). Nevertheless, Tesla CEO Elon Musk describes the acquisition as "blindingly obvious" — a necessary step in his so-called "Master Plan" to integrate clean energy generation and storage. Cont'd...
The real trick to opening the floodgates on microgrids is clear regulatory language that allows microgrid developers to serve the needs of an organization or community while also making the local electric utility whole for their services and investment.
State leaders in the Northeast should keep watch of neighboring states to share best practices and innovative solutions for microgrids. Stakeholders can also look nationwide to other states including California and Illinois, where officials are creating incentives and addressing regulatory challenges.
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