Manu’a Islands 100% Renewable Energy

Update: May 20, 2017
In May 2013, the American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee (ASREC), conducted energy action planning workshops, with support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) staff, to identify the near-term strategies that would be likely to have the greatest impact on reducing American Samoa’s petroleum fuel energy consumption. As a product of those workshops, the Territory’s first Energy Action Plan was completed in August, 2013. Since then, ASREC and the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA), have been working together to complete the actions and goals outlined in the Energy Action Plan.
The four infrastructure strategies listed in the 2013 plan are:
1) Make Manu’a 100% renewable energy dependent by October 2016
2) Wind and solar deployment for Tutuila
3) Assess the potential for geothermal power for Tutuila
4) Hydroelectric power resource development

All “Actions” listed under Strategies 2 and 3 were completed in 2016 while repeated efforts failed to procure funding for Strategy 4. Today, the Manu’a Islands 100% Renewable Energy Initiative is near completion, with that island group getting about 90% of their electricity from the sun.

Manu'a-Islands map

At the Eastern most part of the Samoan Islands, the Manu’a group consists of three islands: Taʻu, Ofu and Olosega. The latter two are connected by a bridge over the shallow 137-meter-wide Asaga strait. ASPA owns and operates two, stand-alone power generation facilities: One on Ta’u and one on Ofu servicing both Ofu and Olosega.
In the past, these two power plants used over 200,000 gallons/year of diesel fuel, which required shipping from American Samoa’s fuel storage facility on Tutuila, almost 90 miles to the West. Because of this and other logistic challenges, electricity in Manu’a has cost as much as $.68 per kilowatt-hour to produce, while ASPA charges its Manu’a customers the territorial-wide “postage stamp” rate, presently $.29/kWh.
ASREC’s 2013 Energy Action Plan and specifically, the Manu’a Islands 100% Renewable Energy Initiative, served as a road map to change all this.
Today, the Ta’u system, with 1.4 MW PV panels and 6MWh Tesla lithium ion battery storage, is supplying 100% of that island’s electricity needs. Since the commissioning of this facility, not a single gallon of diesel fuel has been shipped to that island.
On May 04 of this year, Phase One of the Ofu/Olosega system was commissioned. This installation- funded largely by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs (OIA), consist of 347kW PV panels and 1000kWh AHI (“Salt Water”) battery storage.

Ta’u system

The system was designed to provide 80% of Ofu and Olosega’s electricity needs. Initially, planners felt it would be more efficient to utilize an alternative technology like wind or hydrogen fuel cells to supply the remaining 20% of the load requirements. The Asaga Strait, with its strong tidal currents was also considered as a significant source of hydrokinetic energy. However, due to a number of factors, it was later decided to use additional solar panels and battery storage to complete Phase Two of this project.
ASREC and ASPA, as well as our partners at the OIA and NREL, hope to have Phase Two of the Ofu/Olosega PV system completed by the end of 2018, as it will provide valuable data and information for literally thousands of similar communities both at home and abroad.

Ta’u Microgrid video courtesy Tesla/Solar City
Ofu Installation photo courtesy Wallon Young