On the sleepy Hawaiian island of Kauai sits a first of its kind solar and battery project.
The rain pauses, the clouds part, and the sun finally shines down on a sprawling 65-acre solar panel farm, surrounded by bright green grass and tropical foliage, on the plush Hawaiian island of Kauai.
The close to 55,000 solar panels, which are still being installed on the site, aren’t yet converting the sun’s light into electricity, but something else quite remarkable is happening at the project on this Wednesday morning in mid-November. Bay Area-based solar company SolarCity, which is in the process of being acquired by energy company Tesla, is installing the first of a series of batteries provided by Tesla in a section of the solar site.
When the project is finished early next year, the batteries will store the sun’s energy during the day to be used at night, when the local utility, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, usually starts turning on fossil fuel-consuming generators. When the farm is switched on it will be one of the first ones where a utility is using big blocks of Tesla batteries, and it will also be one of the first utility systems to use solar and batteries to displace power-hungry generators.
While the island’s population is relatively small (the utility has just 33,000 members) the solar and battery project is a glimpse into a future in which energy companies combine clean power with energy storage in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and in some cases reduce energy costs. In addition, the project shows how TeslaTSLA3.11%, an electric car and battery tech maker, could work closely with SolarCitySCTY5.93%to construct the solar and battery vision laid out by billionaire Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and Chairman of both companies.
The companies will hold a shareholder vote on Thursday afternoon, which will determine if the two firms will merge into one. A day before the crucial meeting, SolarCity and utility Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) showedFortunearound the project, a first by a media entity.