Mount solar star powering Pacific
28 June 2012

Image: Solar panels and equipment arrive on Tokelau.

Posted at 7:02am Wednesday 27th Jun, 2012 | By Hamish Carter

Work to create the world's first solar-powered nation has begun with resources from a Mount Maunganui solar business.

Mount Maunganui company Powersmart Solar is leading the way with a $7.5million project to create the world's first solar powered country in Tokelau.

The company has started setting up stand-alone power systems on Tokelau's three tropical atolls, as part of the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project.
Director Mike Bassett-Smith says the company first heard about the project to make the small Pacific nation the world's first solar-powered three years ago and the design and build contract was confirmed in September 2011.
Mike says the project is already attracting a lot of attention and he is certain it will lead to many similar projects throughout Asia and the Pacific.
"Tokelau was a great opportunity for us to leverage our capabilities. It's a big boost for us in terms of this project and our core competencies.
"If you step back from Tokelau and consider how many islands there are in the Pacific and island nations, and almost all of them are operating off diesel generators where the cost of diesel is a major issue – you can see there is a lot of scope."
Mike reels off the fact that Indonesia has 1000 islands, and is looking at solar power options, while the Philippines has 6000 islands along with countless islands in the Pacific.

The project has been designed, engineered and project managed by the company, while five staff arrived on the ground at Tokelau earlier this month to lead the installation work. The stand-alone systems on each atoll, which are linked to battery storage, will replace diesel power generators.
In total the project will install 4032 solar panels by the time it is completed in November to provide power for the 1411 residents. The system is linked to a diesel generator that will prolong battery life by boosting battery power when low from poor weather.
Mike describes each of the three stand-alone solar generators as among the biggest off-grid systems to be setup in the world.
"They are cracking into it. Things are going well – it's not long enough to have too much progress to report but they are happy with how everything is going."
The company was set up at the Mount in 2007 by three Canadians as part of their plan to leverage off the opportunities for solar projects in the nearby Pacific neighbourhood.

Mike's is among the handful of Canadian accents in the Hull Road office, but he is quick to establish his local credentials – saying he is half Kiwi and grew up here.
He credits a lot of the businesses success on the experience of his fellow directors electrical engineer Shane Robinson and mechanical engineer Dean Parchomchuk. Dean helped setup some major solar systems in Canada.
On Friday the company will be in the running for the Bay of Plenty 'Emerging Exporter of the Year Award' on the back of its success with some major commercial developments in Australia, and the new projects it is already lining up in the Pacific and Asia.

Concrete bases are poured on Tokelau for installing panels to make it the first solar-powered nation.

Mike Bassett-Smith hopes the Tokelau project will be the first of many for Powersmart Solar to power Pacific and Asian islands by the sun.


"We have never had a project go so smoothly, they finished two weeks ahead of schedule."

Dan Udy - Director: Udy Group

"We deal with a great number of contractors and would rate PowerSmart's delivery onsite as amongst the very best"


Jason Happy - National Facilities Manager at Kiwi Property

We are delighted to be supplementing our existing renewable energy supply, which already incorporates solar water heating, wind and biological initiatives with solar PV electricity. This will certainly assist us achieve our ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.”

Peter Yealands founder Yealands Estate Wines.