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11/12/2012 04:01 PM     print story email story  

Island Nation Now Completely Powered By Solar News

The tiny island nation, Tokelau, in the South Pacific, is now 100% powered by solar energy.

The archipelago is a territory of New Zealand, which funded the $7 million project.

It may be small, but it's still a "world first" - the largest off-grid solar project in the world, and the largest solar system in the South Pacific.

The 1 megawatt Tokelau Renewable Energy Project (4,032 PV panels and 1,344 batteries) will supply all  the electricity for the nation's three islands. Each island has its own solar plant.

Solar PV replaces diesel generators, and coconut-oil fired generators act as backups on cloudy days. The islands will no longer have to import expensive, dirty diesel to generate electricity.

The remote islands lie between New Zealand and Hawaii and  most of the 1,400 inhabitants rely on subsistence farming.

"Companies from all over the globe tendered for the project and it was a "big win" for Powersmart, a New Zealand-based solar company, says Mike Bassett-Smith, director of NZ's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "News of the contract has reached our New Zealand residential customers and has led to an increase in home owners requesting grid connected solar power to offset their increasing power bill." 

Powersmart is experienced in designing solar power systems for harsh and remote environments and has taken care to design a robust system suitable for the Pacific which must be able to withstand high ambient temperatures, salt-laden air, and risk of cyclones and/or flooding, he says.

"All across the Pacific there are clear issues with the current and expected future costs of electricity generated using diesel, not to mention the environmental costs and risks of unloading diesel drums on tropical atolls. Energy costs underpin the economic and social development of these nations and making a positive impact on these issues is the single most important reason we started this business," adds Basset-Smith.

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