The remote Pacific Island territory of Tokelau has officially become the world’s first solar-powered nation! The population of 1,411 people decided to end their reliance on around 2,000 barrels of diesel each year, and instead install 4032 photovoltaic panels and 1344 batteries to produce 150 percent of the populations’ energy needs. While the vast majority of power will be provided by the solar systems, it will be supplemented by biofuels produced from locally-sourced—and plentiful—coconuts.
The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project (TREP) is a joint initiative by the Government of Tokelau and the New Zealand Aid Programme (which provided NZ$7 million in funding). New Zealand-based firm PowerSmart Solar took the lead in designing and installing the large-scale solar system. The project is not only unusual because of its size and record-breaking comprehensiveness, but also because of the logistical problems associated with Tokelau’s location. Comprised of three coral atolls, Tokelau sits half way between New Zealand and Hawaii. The atolls sit 500km north of Samoa, and have no airstrips or docks—instead supplies had to be transferred by boats and barges to reach the islands.
Tricky as the project was, PowerSmart completed the endeavor on time and on budget, providing Tokelau with significant long-term financial savings while supporting the nation’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Speaking to IPS, Jovilisi Suveinakama, general manager of the National Public Service of the Government of Tokelau stated “[o]ur commitment as global citizens is to make a positive contribution towards the mitigation of the impacts of climate change.”
It is hoped that Tokelau’s endeavor will reduce the environmental impact of the Islands’ energy use while improving the broader quality of life of the islanders. In a statement to the AFP, PowerSmart’s Mike Basset-Smith explained: “For Tokelau, this milestone is of huge importance for their continued well-being… Many Pacific nations struggle to provide a high proportion of their people access to electricity, and even when they do, access to affordable electricity is a significant additional challenge.” The savings will free up additional funds that can be used for programs such as welfare and education.