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Transforming Tokelau: Heading for 100% solar by the end of 2012

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on August 27th, 2012

Source: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Programme

From “Tokelau: A Leading Light in Renewable Energy

 

An innovative renewable energy project is set to transform Tokelau and lead the world in transitioning from dependence on fossil-fuels to renewable energy.  

With global attention focused on the effects of climate change and the international price of oil, it may come as a surprise that the tiny nation of Tokelau, comprising three remote atolls midway between New Zealand and Hawai’i, is moving to the forefront of the debate by installing renewable energy systems that will dramatically slash its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Undertaking a project of this scale on all three atolls is no mean feat. The closest atoll is around 500km north of Samoa; there are no airstrips or wharves, and the only access is a long boat trip from Samoa that ends outside the reefs, where a landing barge takes passengers and equipment to shore. Offloading goods in the swell is challenging. However, soon the job will become easier since almost 2,000 barrels of diesel a year will no longer be required to generate electricity.

Developing renewable energy projects in the Pacific brings unique challenges. Systems and components must be designed to withstand harsh tropical and marine environments, strong winds, high temperatures, and a corrosive salt-laden atmosphere. Unlike in New Zealand, where if a part breaks or needs replacing it is possible to replace easily, in Tokelau the systems and components must be designed to promote robustness and longevity, because transport is infrequent and challenging. And yet by the end of 2012 Tokelau expects to switch off its generators and begin to use an indigenous resource it has plenty of – sunlight.

Tokelau’s 1,411 residents are New Zealand citizens, and New Zealand is advancing $7 million to the Government of Tokelau to install the renewable energy systems that will help achieve its long-term goals of energy independence and reducing reliance on expensive imported diesel, which will put Tokelau at the forefront of global climate change mitigation efforts.

The energy crisis in the Pacific is not confined to Tokelau. Most Pacific Island nations are highly dependent on imported fossil fuels to meet energy needs, and are vulnerable to international price fluctuations and escalating fuel costs. Almost every aspect of Pacific economies is underpinned by imported fossil fuels, and the increasing cost of diesel results in extremely high costs of electricity for households and businesses. In many cases, the cost of importing fuel is many times higher than all export earnings combined, so Tokelau’s, and the Pacific’s, dependence on diesel is bad for the economy as well as the environment. […]

“This project is unique and has the potential to demonstrate what can be achieved through the perseverance and hard work by the Government of Tokelau,” adds Joseph Mayhew, Development Manager Energy in the New Zealand Aid Programme. “Photovoltaics are a mature, reliable off-the-shelf technology that has been proven for years. Given the high cost of diesel, renewable energy should not be seen as an ‘alternative’ source of energy, but rather an essential key to unlocking the Pacific’s potential.”

Read the full article from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

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