Musk spins a true tale of a solar powered island

Tech isn't interesting - what it can do for us is. And Elon Musk is telling that solar story really well right now.

One of the great clichés of tech in the second decade of the 21st Century is that Elon Musk is the new Steve Jobs. And, frankly, if you’ve ever seen a video of Musk presenting,. you’ll understand how wide of the mark that comparison is. And yet…

He does have something Jobsian about him- not in the sense of a reality distortion field and an incredibly charismatic stage presence – but it inspiring you look look beyond the technology to the life inspired by the technology. Take this video:

Now, yes, it’s a huge piece of marketing, but it’s an incredibly inspiring piece of marketing. The technology seems almost incidental to the message of a cleaner, cheaper way of living. And that’s exactly the kind of story that Jobs used to be able to spin around Apple products. The iPod wasn’t about a cool, tiny MP3 player, it was about 1000 songs in your pocket. And the combined Solar City and Telsa technology set is freeing an island from fossil fuels. An island can be a salutary lesson in what can go wrong with that:

“I recall a time they weren’t able to get the boat out here for two months,” said Keith Ahsoon, a local resident whose family owns one of the food stores on the island. “We rely on that boat for everything, including importing diesel for the generators for all of our electricity. 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.

While the new solar microgrid hasn’t completely eliminated the need for other fuels, it has revolutionised the feeling of security around some essential services:

Its benefits are life changing for residents of Ta’u. The local hospital, high school and elementary schools, fire and police stations and local businesses no longer need to worry about outages or rationing. But the biggest advantage is cost: Tau’s microgrid replaces diesel generators with more affordable solar energy, and is designed to optimize system performance and maximize savings.

Real life stories like this can really inspire change – and encourage other communities to explore options they would previous have discarded.

And frankly, in an year where technology is being blamed for all sorts of ills, from fake news to mass surveillance, a little good news is more than welcome.