I’ve written before about Germany’s Energiewende, or energy transition. Germany seeks to become an economy driven by renewable energy, but this is difficult as it is so densely populated, heavily industrialized and has a relatively poor renewable energy potential, being neither very sunny nor very windy. It continues to make impressive progress, but it will be a slow process to achieve 100% renewables energy use for electricity, heating and transport.
Some places can make the transition, at least in their electricity sectors, very quickly. The tiny island of T’au, part of American Samoa, has a population of just 600 and was dependent on expensive diesel generators for electricity. A couple of weeks ago they switched on a 1.4 MW microgrid, powered just by solar panels with Tesla batteries to give three days storage. Given their remote location and sunny climate this will prove much cheaper and more reliable than the old diesel generators. Their conversion from diesel to solar took only a few months.
Mauritania is a country not much in the news and seldom seen as a leader in technology matters. However in 2015 it spent a greater proportion of its GDP on renewable energy infrastructure than any other country on Earth. Admittedly its GDP is tiny, but this is still impressive. Like T’au it has been largely dependent on diesel generators. Many people had no access to electricity and those that did experienced frequent power cuts. In a way it is the polar opposite of Germany; sparsely populated, with little industry and a truly vast renewable energy potential, including a windy coast and huge areas of hot sunny desert and semi desert. They have just opened a 30MW wind farm and a 15MW solar photovoltaic farm, both in the capital, Nouakchott. Mauritania’s total grid capacity only seems to be about 150MW, so another dozen or so of these scale projects would see them attain 100% renewable electricity. For remote communities in the interior, solar plus batteries will be the way to bring them electricity. It could all happen very cheaply and very quickly.