Tonga joins Tokelau in switching on solar power
Tonga joins Pacific solar drive to cheaper, safer, cleaner power REneweconomy By Sophie Vorrath 17 August 2012 Last week, New Zealand-based Powersmart Solar officially switched on the first of three solar power systems being installed on the South Pacific archipelago of Tokelau. As reported on RenewEconomy earlier this month, Tokelau is replacing the diesel electricity systems that have powered its three atolls with solar power systems and battery storage.
But Tokelau is not the the only South Pacific nation currently undergoing a solar transformation. The Kingdom of Tonga switched on its own maiden solar plant at the end of last month – another New Zealand-funded project that, along with the plant at Tokelau’s Fakaofo atoll, are set to be the first of many to come in the region, according to NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.
As is the case in Tokelau, the Tongan solar plant – Ma’ama Mai, which means “Let there be Light” – is part of a scheme to reduce the island nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and, in particular, diesel. According to reports, Tonga was consuming about 30 million litres of diesel a year; an average of about one litre every two seconds.
A collaborative effort between Tonga Power and NSW-based Meridian Energy, Ma’ama Mai’s nearly 6,000 solar panels will generate around 1MW a year, which equates to 4 per cent of electricity used on the main island of Tongatapu. For such a seemingly small amount, this will help Tonga save an estimated 470,000 litres of diesel – $NZ15 million-worth – over the 25-year-life of the plant.
According to an ABC News report, the plant was originally going to be funded by Tonga Power and the Tongan Government, but the World Bank would not loan Tonga any more funds, so New Zealand stepped in to cover the $7.9 million cost.
Already it is paying off, with the government announcing a reduction in the price Tongans pay for electricity from August 1. And this could just be the beginning – Tonga’s Minister for Public Enterprises, William Clive Edwards, says the aim is to have 50 per cent of the country’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2018; including solar, wind and biomass….. http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/tonga-joins-pacific-solar-drive-to-cheaper-safer-cleaner-power-60042
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