Tokelau first country to be powered by the sun


The tiny three atoll nation of Tokelau that lies halfway between new Zealand and Hawai’i, is set to become the world’s first ever country to draw all of its energy requirements from the sun. <!--more-->The nation of 1411 residents, who are New Zealand citizens, has been totally reliant on diesel powered generators for their electricity requirements.

New Zealand company Powersmart Solar is implementing the NZ$7 million project that is funded by the Government of New Zealand. Shortly the three atolls will switch off their diesel generators and turn on the power from the more than 4000 solar panels that make up the new solar power stations. Installation on the atoll of Fakaofo is already complete and work on Atafu and Nukunon is progressing rapidly and is expected to be completed by next month.

The switch to solar on all the three atolls will save more than NZ$1 million that is spent on some 2000 barrels of diesel used to fuel the old smoky diesel generators every year. The set up is believed to have a 20 year life before needing any major parts replacements. According to the project implementers, the solar project would pay for itself in a matter of five years.

Tokelau is one of the most challenging environments for such a project logistically. There are neither airstrips nor wharves on the atolls. The only means of reaching them is by a long boat trip from Samoa, some 500km away that ends outside the reefs, where a landing barge takes passengers and equipment to shore. Swells pose an additional challenge for offloading cargo.

Besides Tokelau, the New Zealand Government is helping build a 1-MW solar photovoltaic power plant in Tonga. It is also aiding the Cook Islands to transform its 100% reliance on diesel generation into renewable energy generation. It is also working with Samoa and Tuvalu on solar projects.