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 has freed 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.
The 1 megawatt project is comprised of three individual solar power systems with battery storage, each of which is among the largest off-grid solar power systems in the world. The first system on Fakaofo atoll was switched on in early August 2012 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.
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.
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 800 litres of fuel daily – 1500 barrels a year shipped in from New Zealand or Samoa at an annual cost of approximately NZ$600,000 and considerable environmental impact. The installation across the three atolls has eliminated diesel fuel use and provides consistent high quality electricity.
This 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."
“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.”
- Dean Parchomchuk, PowerSmart Director of Operations.
“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”.
- John Bosco, Acting General Manager of Energy.
“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.
"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."
- Mike Bassett-Smith, PowerSmart Managing Director.
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 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 collaborated with IT Power Australia; the project was funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme and supported by the Government of Tokelau.
Label Title: Utility scale off-grid solar electricity
Location: Est. Annual CO2 Reduction: 950.92 Metric tons
Specs: 1 megawatt
Est. Energy Production: 1464.85 megawatt hours/year
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