Microgrids are starting to come into their own, and Tesla Owner Elon Musk is drawing attention by claiming storage can fix energy problems around the globe.
Microgrids helped small islands like Ta’u of American Samoa go completely solar. Off North Carolina’s coast, Ocracoke’s grid security was increased by a small solar microgrid. It will keep the island running along with a small diesel generator the island has had if the single transmission line from the mainland to the island is disrupted. Hawaiian island Kauai also discovered the beauty of microgrids with a solar+storage system, the island was able to go off fossil fuels altogether.
Islands are so interested in microgrids because shipping fossil fuels makes energy production more expensive than it is on continental America or other mainland countries. Many islands have jumped on the bandwagon, reducing or erasing fossil fuel use for each island.
Tesla started the year by increasing production of the new storage batteries, causing the prices to drop more than they already were. As microgrids have become more affordable, they have become a viable option for communities and municipalities.
With his factory pumping out batteries, Musk is making sure people know his product can do what fossil fuel energy plants cannot. In March, he told Australia his batteries could solve the rolling blackout issues in South Australia after a gas shortage and storms disrupting transmission and closing wind farms and power plants in 100 days. Australia took Musk up on his bet, and Tesla is currently ahead of schedule on the 100 day deadline.
Musk was so confident in part because Tesla had built a smaller battery storage system for California in three months in late 2016.
Tesla is not the only one bringing renewables to places in need. Australian company ZEN Energy proposed another project for Australia when rolling blackouts hit a city after a heatwave. Several companies and wealthy environmentalists have been making sure islands have a variety of energy options.
Plans for microgrids are being put into place for facilities like correctional facilities and hospitals where backup for power outages are vital. Microgrids are currently being set up in Puerto Rico to put hospitals back in business.
Beyond relief, Musk, in response to a tweet, claimed Tesla solar+storage systems could be the answer for Puerto Rico as the territory recovers and decides how to increase its grid security. The governor seemed to like the idea, so who knows what is in store for solar and microgrids in the upcoming year. As long as Tesla and other solar companies rise to solve energy crises, there will be evidence that solar can do what fossil fuels cannot.