Noel, Kris, and Jesse are currently in Niue where PowerSmart in conjunction with the Government of Niue and New Zealand Aid Programme is in the process of installing a utility-scale solar and battery solution for Niue power company.
"Kris, Jesse and I arrived in Niue in mid-April to lead stage one of a solar and battery project for PowerSmart. The job involves two separate sites with 600kW of solar panels on a site that is in the middle of Niue near the Hospital. and the battery installation of 4MWh of Tesla Powerpacks at the existing diesel generator plant. The foundations for the solar panels consists of 672 Surefoot piles to be installed which requires 2,352 galvanized steel poles (42mm diameter) need to be driven into the ground using jackhammers. As Niue’s nickname is “The Rock” you can imagine how easy that has been!
There is also limited machinery available on the Island so getting the earthworks complete has taken some time.
Despite the challenges, we have been able to make significant progress and the project is tracking along quite nicely. We have five locals working with us and they have proven to be awesome workers! They have spent days and days on the ends of jackhammers driving in the 2352 steel poles into 'The Rock', which is work not for the faint-hearted! Progress has been such that Jesse was able to leave us on Friday, June 8 – on schedule.
One of the issues we have had to overcome has been with construction machinery. As an example, there is only one operational concrete truck on the Island and when we were scheduled to pour the foundation for the battery bank in mid-May it broke down a few days before the pour. Unfortunately, it took another two weeks to become operational again, which has meant we have had to be very organised to make sure everything still gets done on time. We managed to do the pour on June 5, two weeks behind schedule and on the same day as the freight ship arrived. It was all available hands on board as three of our locals who are building with us are also involved with the ship each time it arrives. The two remaining locals went down and ran the batching plant and Jesse, Kris and I were left to do the pour on our own.
With Jesse gone Kris and I are on our own in the house we have. Niue has a population of around 1,600 people and we have found the locals very friendly and have enjoyed a pretty good social life outside of work. When you are an expat living in a small place like Niue you sometimes get invited to functions at the NZ High Commission which has happened for us a few times. Niue also has a “tourist season” which is due to start in a few weeks. It revolves around the time when Hump Back whales are frequently spotted as they come here to calve each year.
The other constant about life in Niue is the roosters. There are dozens around the house at all times and they crow incessantly. They were roosting at night in a tree right outside Jesse’s bedroom window for some time but some effort around consecutive dusks put paid to that. They start crowing at around 4:00am each day…"