Story and images by Selesitina Scanlan
As of today, the island of Ta’u is leading the way with solar energy power. Our island is now 98% energy efficient. That’s almost a 100%! As exciting as it is, it was not always this way.
The American Samoa Power Authority (A.S.P.A) brought the original power plant to Ta’u in the year of 1972 . This provided the entire island with power from the burning of diesel fuel. Before ASPA built the power plant in Ta’u, each village survived off of smaller power generators. These generators provided for schools and individual homes with electricity.
Aso Tali, a 61 years-old high school teacher from the village of Faleasao, provided some details on life before the power plant came to Ta’u. She explained, “except for a few times, the power generators never failed us during school hours.” She also says that there was a curfew for the power to be turned off. “At 10 o’clock at night, the generators shut down to save gas to use up for the next day,” she said. She mentioned that after the generator was shut down, the only light source they had was the moon. “If there was no moon at night, we had to wait until dawn to do our studies for school,” she adds. At the end of her interview, her last remarks were, “even if there was not much electricity, the generation in those times were happy and plentiful.”
Today, the whole island is powered entirely by the sun. A senior here at Manu’a High School, Sabrina Patiasa, says “I’ve seen no direct change in my everyday life since we’ve switched to solar energy, but it’s there.”
Most locals don’t see the change in our environment, but they know the benefits of this project and what will become of it in the long run. For example, we don’t have to heavily depend on the M/V Sili ship to transport diesel to our island anymore. Instead of producing just electricity, the diesel power generators produce air pollution as well. This has been hurting our environment and also the health of our people. With this solar project, our air is clean and our environment is safe.
No one knows what the future holds and what this project holds for the future of Ta’u. We’ve asked the question, “What is the next step in producing renewable energy?”
Danielle Mauga, a representative from ASPA, helped us answer this question. “We haven’t really moved towards looking at another renewable resource. There are a lot of renewable resources like, thermal energy, wind, or even using the water to generate electricity and more is being explored.” she explains, “but because solar energy has been proven, and you have a whole lot of sun out here, then duh! Why not have it here?” A solar power plant is obviously a good source of energy on an island.
Personally, I am just glad to be able to see this project come to life. We have taken the biggest step to saving our surroundings and especially our precious home we call Earth. To be a part of this movement in taking the initiative to “Go Green” is the best feeling ever. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future of my people, my environment and most of all, my island. What a time to be alive.