Tesla Energy has for the first time become an electric utility to Hawaii's Kauai island, having recently flipped the switch on a solar panel array and corresponding battery storage plant. The facility will generate up to 13 megawatts (MWs) of electricity for the island's power grid to meet peak demand in the evening.
Tesla, and its subsidiary SolarCity, not only constructed the power plant, but is under contract to run it. Under the contract, Hawaii's Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) will pay 13.9 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, only slightly more than the cost of energy from KIUC's two existing 12MW solar arrays, whose output is available only during the day.
The new contract price for electricity from Tesla Energy is also more than a penny less per kilowatt than the island pays for electricity provided by diesel-fuel generators on the island. Additionally, KIUC believes the new clean energy will save 1.6 million gallons of diesel fuel a year that has been used to supply generator electricity.
"The importance of the project for the member-owners of KIUC can't be overstated. By using solar energy stored in the battery after the sun goes down, we will reduce our use of imported fuels and our greenhouse gas emissions significantly," KIUC CEO David Bissell said in a statement.
The new power station consists of 55,000 solar panels generating 13MW of electricity that is stored in 272 Tesla Powerpack lithium-ion batteries. Prior to Tesla buying out SolarCity in November, the two companies won the 20-year contract in 2015 to build and run the 52 megawatt hour (MWH) power plant, the first-of-its-kind solar array and energy storage system on 50 acres for the KIUC.
Kauai currently gets about 40% of its electricity from solar power, a figure it hopes to increase to 70% by 2020.
The new solar power station is not Tesla's first to provide power for an island. The company's SolarCity subsidiary announced last year it converted the entire island of Ta'u in American Samoa to solar power through a massive microgrid project.
Ta'u, a 17-square-mile island and the most populous of the Manu'a Group of atolls, is located more than 4,000 miles from the U.S. West Coast. The island, which has about 785 residents, had been powered by diesel generators and struggled with regular power rationing and outages.