The South Pacific nation of Tokelau is aiming to ditch its diesel dependency and transform itself into the world’s first solar-powered country. With the help of New Zealand engineering company Powersmart Solar, the island’s 1,400 residents hope to generate all their power with a system of 4032 solar panels and 1344 batteries.
The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project (TREP) is being headed by Powersmart Solar, who aim to replace the island nation’s diesel generators with the expansive solar system. If the project is successful, it will mean that Tokelau is not only the first country to meet 100% of its climate change obligations, but also the first completely solar-powered nation on earth.
Currently, the island state is reliant on the diesel shipped in from New Zealand. As a result, the country’s diesel generators burn around 200 litres of fuel daily, which amounts to 2000 barrels each year at an annual cost of NZ$1million—and yields a considerable environmental impact. This diesel dependency also impacts Tokelau’s 1,400 residents, who can only count on 15 to 18 hours of electricity each day.
Tokelau’s solar power system has been designed to spread across the nation’s three atolls – Fakaofo, Nukunonu, and Atafu. It will provide 150% of the nation’s current electricity demand, whilst being able to stand up to the region’s tropical storms and will provide 24-hour electricity. The only diesel the nation will require will be for Tokelau’s tiny fleet of three cars.
Hopefully Tokelau’s transformation will the first of many Pacific islands in the region. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has often reported that Pacific Island countries are among the most petroleum-dependent nations and territories in the world. However the solar power system will enable Tokelau to save over 12,000 tonnes of CO2 during its operation. During emergency periods and times of prolonged cloud cover, the generators will run on coconut oil and simultaneously recharge the battery bank.
“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.”
Images © US Embassy New Zealand, PowerSmart