TOKELAU - 100% SOLAR POWERED
On October 29th 2012 PowerSmart completed the award winning ‘Tokelau Renewable Energy Project’ officially making Tokelau 100% Solar Powered. Each of Tokelau's three atolls now has their own solar electricity system which will supply enough electricity to exceed current requirements and allow Tokelau to meet 100% of their climate change obligations.
PowerSmart was the lead contractor in the world first project which will free the communities of their dependence on increasingly expensive diesel generation. The $7.5 million NZD development was funded by an advance on aid funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme. 4032 solar panels, 392 inverters and 1344 batteries were installed on Tokelau's three atolls between June and October this year.
Work started in mid-June on the 1 Megawatt project which is comprised of three individual solar power systems with battery storage, each of these individual systems is among the largest off-grid solar power systems in the world. The first system, on Fakaofo atoll, was switched on in early August after a nine-week construction period. The following system on Nukunonu atoll was connected in mid-September, and the third and final system on Atafu atoll was commissioned on the 29th of October 2012 completing the entire Tokelau Renewable Energy Project’ on time and on budget.
Tokelau's government estimates the country will save 12,000 tonnes of CO2 over the life of the solar power plant. At present the country's diesel generators burn around 200 litres of fuel daily – 2000 barrels a year shipped in from New Zealand at an annual cost of NZ$1million and considerable environmental impact. Until nowTokelau's population of 1400 could count on only 15 to 18 hours of electricity each day. The installation across the three atolls will eliminate diesel fuel use and provide consistent high quality electricity.
In October this year the project won PowerSmart the Clean-tech and Sustainability section of the NZ Innovators Awards. The judges had this to say;
“I have never passed a maximum score in every category in two years as an awards evaluator. To me your project in Tokelau ticks every box. You have blended working in a remote location, excellence in design and engineering, economic rationale with reducing diesel costs and ongoing environmental and economic benefits. And not least training benefits to the local population. A really brilliant project and I hope we keep your company in New Zealand see domestic growth also as a result.
An outstanding example of applying existing technology to a problem with results that have brought social, economic and environmental benefits to the customer and end user. Brilliant example of a NZ business exporting it's skill to deliver the solution."
The original tender specification called for the solar systems to supply 90% of Tokelau’s electricity demand. Through creative design, project management methodology, and sheer scale the completed solar systems are now capable of providing 150% of current electricity demand, allowing the Tokelauans to expand their electricity use without increasing diesel use.
We are proud to be finished on time and on budget. The workers there took great interest in the system and have learnt a lot through the training we have provided. We did not have any significant problems with logistics thanks to the work of all involved, including the locals who offloaded an enormous amount of equipment without incident. There are no wharves or airports in Tokelau so everything had to be offloaded from the anchored ship onto a smaller boat and then offloaded again onto land. Tokelau is an incredibly remote and difficult place to deliver this volume and description of equipment so we're very pleased it's gone this well.
“I think this project has been a great success, because already Tokelau is almost exclusively relying on solar for its energy needs. PowerSmart has provided the technology and the technical know-how and the people of Tokelau have built this themselves and they have built it on time and on budget and I think that is of great credit to them. It is a really good example of how a small but cohesive community can come together behind a great project like this and make it work”.
-Jonathan Kings, Administrator of Tokelau, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“It has been an amazing project to see through from start to finish. I am very proud of our team for the amazing work done within the timeframe of the project schedule. The local Tokelauans have also been paramount in achieving this goal. They should feel proud of their accomplishment because as a community they have helped to build three of the largest off-grid solar power systems in the world.”
- PowerSmart Director of Operations, Dean Parchomchuk.
“We gained a lot of new knowledge on concrete and construction works. This was done above and beyond what was required from PowerSmart with the contract. By the time we finished the third island most aspects of the installation of the solar panels we were able to do on our own. We learned quite a bit. We had a lot of hands on training as well some night classes put on by PowerSmart. Anything we didn’t understand we asked and PowerSmart made it really simple to understand. We got on really well. If we didn’t work well together, we wouldn’t have been finished in time”.
- Acting General Manager of Energy, John Bosco.
“Now that I have seen it I know we made the right decision. You sailed rough seas to come here to help us out and for that I want to thank you. Thanks to everyone who helped out with the project. You have contributed for the good of us all.” - Tokelauan Elder.
“Solar power means a lot of things to us. We’ve been having problems with diesel as often we have patients who need machines – asthmatic people, emergency patients at night who need the lights, and also the vaccines need to maintain a cool temperature. The interrupted supply of power was an issue, and diesel was expensive.”
- Iuta Sili – Tokelauan Doctor.
“Sometimes the generators used to overload and the whole system’d shut down, so we’d have problems cooking tea and the lights would go out at night. Thanks to PowerSmart we won’t be facing this problem of not having power at night.“
- Tofiga Teao, Fakaofo Economic Development Policy Advisor.
PowerSmart Managing Director Mike Bassett-Smith says the company is proud to be leading the project because of the impact it will have on the well-being of the people of Tokelau. "All across the Pacific there are clear issues with the current and expected future costs of electricity generated using diesel, not to mention the environmental costs and risks of unloading diesel drums on tropical atolls. Energy costs underpin the economic and social development of these nations and making a positive impact on these issues is the single most important reason we started this business."
- PowerSmart Managing Director, Mike Bassett-Smith.
PowerSmart is now preparing to move on to other projects. Mike Bassett-Smith says getting the tender for the Tokelau project ahead of companies from all over the world was a "big win" for the five-year old business. "News of the contract has also reached our New Zealand residential customers and has led to an increase in enquiries by home owners requesting grid connected solar power to offset their increasing power bills," he says. “PowerSmart’s philosophy is based on two words. We’re all about people, and power. We have a great team who believe in providing people with more choice and greater power for their lives.”
For this project PowerSmart has collaborated with IT Power Australia, the project is funded by The New Zealand Aid Programme and supported by the Government of Tokelau.