Sustainable buildings of the future: Our top picks
11 Oct 2018
The future is looking towards solar technology for sustainable solutions. We shine a light on solar projects changing the way we live.
One island, a microgrid and 60 Tesla Powerpacks.
Written by Jordaine Chattaway
We’re taking you overseas for this week’s #mondaymotivation – get your passports ready. We’re heading to a remote island, more than 6000km away from the West Coast of the United States. It’s called Ta’u and it’s located in American Samoa.
Although it’s covered in picturesque jungle and surrounded by stunning beaches, we’re not visiting for the scenery – we’re taking you there to have a closer look at what the future of energy looks like.
The remote location of this beautiful island presents daily challenges for its population of around 600. Food scarcity and severe weather conditions at times both cause ongoing concern for the locals, but the issue of affordable, reliable power has long been considered one of its greatest challenges.
Local resident, Keith Ahsoon was quoted on the SolarCity blog sharing he recalled a time when residents weren’t able to get a boat out to the island for two months.
Considering his family owns one of the food stores on the island, Keith said it was a serious issue.
“We rely on that boat for everything, including importing diesel for the generators for all of our electricity,” he was quoted as saying on the site.
“Once diesel gets low, we try to save it by using it only for mornings and afternoons. Water systems here also use pumps, everyone in the village uses and depends on that. It’s hard to live not knowing what’s going to happen.”
Keith said the power issues on the island hadn’t changed much.
“I remember growing up using candlelight. And now, in 2016, we were still experiencing the same problems.”
Well, that was until recently.
Ta’u now hosts a solar power and battery storage-enabled microgrid that can supply almost 100 percent of the island’s power needs from renewable energy.
The microgrid – 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity from SolarCity and Tesla and 6 megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks – was implemented within just one year from start to finish.
“It’s always sunny out here, and harvesting that energy from the sun will make me sleep a lot more comfortably at night, just knowing I’ll be able to serve my customers,” Ahsoon said.
The new microgrid is operated by American Samoa Power Authority and provides energy independence for the residents of Ta’u while the battery system allows the island to use stored solar energy at night.
Innovation at Origin
We're committed to helping secure a cleaner energy supply because we want a cleaner, better future for all Australians and the planet. Here’s a few examples of how we're focussing on energy innovation and leading the way to a clean energy future.
Correct as of 17 August 2017
1. We're trialling next gen home energy solutions
In collaboration with California-based tech start-up Bidgely, Origin will shortly begin trialing the new solution with 5,000 customers in Victoria, providing them with a rare insight into where energy is being used in their household and helping them to manage their energy costs.
2. We've launched O Hub
Our Bidgely trial (see above) is one of the first projects being run out of O hub - a new office in Melbourne where Origin people are co-located with Australian tech start-ups, which is dedicated to rapidly prototyping, developing and trialing new customer solutions.
3. We co-founded Free Electrons
Origin is a proud co-founder of Free Electrons – a global accelerator bringing together eight forward-thinking utilities and 12 leading start-ups in renewables, smart grids, electric vehicles and home energy management.
4. We've established a presence in Silicon Valley
Origin is establishing a presence in Palo Alto, California – helping facilitate our access to the vibrant Silicon Valley start-up community.
5. We're supporting clean energy innovation
Principal sponsor of EnergyLab – the new home for clean energy innovation and Australian Energy technology start ups, which is located at the University of Technology, Sydney.
6. We mean business when it comes to climate change
We have committed to closing our single coal-fired power station, Eraring in NSW, at the end of its life in the 2030s and are accelerating our investment in renewables. Origin was the world’s first energy company to sign up to seven initiatives of the We Mean Business coalition, a worldwide group of NGOs, signatory companies and institutional investors committed to limiting climate change impacts to 2oC. Read more about it here.
7. We’re already making big leaps in renewable energy
Origin is one of Australia’s largest supporters of renewable energy, with a portfolio of more than 700MW of owned or contracted renewable energy. We have invested in wind generation for more than a decade and by 2020, we intend to add up to 1500 MW of new, large-scale renewable energy to our portfolio. In the past year, we have signed a series of long-term agreements to buy the power produced by solar farms across Australia including:
8. We are one of the largest providers of green energy in Australia
We have more than 150,000 green energy customer accounts, making us one of the largest Australian providers of GreenPower and Green Gas products. Green power is energy sourced from government accredited renewable power sources.
9. We’re solar experts
We have 410,000+ Origin electricity customers with rooftop solar installed who receive feed-in tariffs for the extra solar energy they produce. Origin is also Australia’s second largest installer of residential solar systems, having directly sold and installed around 85,000 residential solar systems.
10. We believe a balanced supply is important
Gas will be the key to managing the transition to lower carbon and providing reliability and affordability as renewable energy grows. Origin’s generation portfolio consists of mainly gas-fired power stations, which are lower emissions and can be started more quickly than coal to step in and provide electricity when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. We’ll keep doing what we can to decarbonise our energy supply and economy, while making sure our responsibilities as the largest energy provider in Australia are met at all times.
More about the author
Jordaine leads Origin’s Social Media Content by day and runs her own fashion news outlet, The Modern Black, by night. The former newspaper and television journalist loves to play with words and has a passion for finding new ways to change the world for the better ... one little step at a time.