HBO’s Vice puts Tesla CTO JB Straubel and Kauai’s Solar + Powerpack system in the spotlight

HBO’s Vice News unpacked details behind Tesla Energy’s recent installation of a huge solar energy plant on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Similar to the Tesla-SolarCity microgrid built on the island of Ta’u, the sustainable energy system at Kauai’s combines the use a 52 megawatt-hour commercial Tesla Powerpack 2 battery system with a 13 megawatt solar farm.

Hawaii was an early adopter in clean technology due to the unfavorable energy costs at the island state. It currently relies on fossil fuels to produce 90% of its energy, while importing 100% of that energy. This means the state imports $5-6 billion per year in energy, driving the cost of household island living up several hundred dollars per month in energy costs alone.

In 2015, Hawaii committed to generating 100% of its energy using locally sourced renewable energy by 2045. Hawaii’s abundant sunshine combined with the fact that the state has some of the most expensive electricity rates in the nation, makes the cost justification for a Tesla Energy system come more readily. But back on the mainland where utility rates are low, investing into a solar and battery storage system doesn’t always net favorably. “There’s a lot of existing investments in big utilities and that is one of the challenges with changing things quickly is that people have made large investments that need to be recovered for many, many years.” says Tesla CTO JB Straubel in speaking with VICE News.

Tesla Energy continues to seek investment opportunities into areas like Hawaii and Australia where electricity rates are very high. “Hawaii is a great example of having an abundance of solar power and also, having fairly dirty existing electricity generation. So we can come in and economically substitute out oil burning generators with solar power.” says Straubel.

Hawaii is doing its part in the push towards renewables with full support from its Governor, David Ige. Ever the optimist, he envisions a cleaner future for future generations. “We believe that a future based on clean energy would certainly be brighter than one built on fossil fuels”

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