PowerSmart finishes Tokelau Renewable Energy Project
29 October 2012


PowerSmart finishes world first project to make Tokelau 100% Solar Powered

Today PowerSmart completed their 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. 

The Mount Maunganui-based firm PowerSmart is the lead contractor in the $7.5 million development which will free the communities of their dependence on increasingly expensive diesel generation.

Work started in mid-June on the 1 Megawatt project which 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 world first project, which was funded by a soft loan from New Zealand Aid, was a collaboration between PowerSmart and energy consulting firm IT Power Australia. 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 over the weekend completing the entire Tokelau Renewable Energy Project’ on time and on budget.

“Everything has gone amazingly well.  We are pretty proud to be finished on time and on schedule.  The workers here took great interest in the system and have learnt a lot through the training we have provided.” -PowerSmart Director of Engineering, Shane Robinson

Last week 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.

“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.

Acting General Manager of Energy, John Bosco had this to say about his experience working with PowerSmart on this project;

 “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.

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

“There is a legacy that this generation would like to leave for our future – no matter how small we are, we can do it and do it well. Savings from the purchase of fuel will be in 2 phase – (i) is to repay funds we have borrowed to implement this project; (ii) address our priorities in health and education.”
- Joe Suveinakama, General Manager, Apia (National Public Service)

The project involved the installation of 4,032 photovoltaic panels, 392 inverters and 1,344 batteries across the three atolls (Fakaofo, Nukunonu, and Atafu) in the South Pacific Ocean.  The atolls have a total land area of 10km² and a population of approximately 1,500 people. Until recently diesel generators were burning around 200 litres of fuel daily on each atoll, meaning more than 2,000 barrels of diesel were used to generate electricity in Tokelau each year costing more than $1 million NZD.

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.”

PowerSmart is a current panel member and installer for the Australian Capital Territory Solar Power Schools Program, which aims to have solar power systems installed on all primary and secondary schools in the territory.  PowerSmart have completed 31 system installations out of a total of more than 80 in the program.

PowerSmart have recently been announced as finalists in the National Sustainable 60 Awards and Sustainable Business Network Awards. Earlier this year they were named Emerging Exporter of the Year at the BNZ Bay of Plenty Export NZ Awards. They also recently ranked 14th in The New Zealand Herald's Green 50 list of top Kiwi companies helping the environment. In 2011 they won the SEANZ award for ‘Largest Small Scale Renewable/Distributed Generation Installation’ and in 2010 they won the Sustainable Business Network ‘People’s Choice Award’ and ‘Trailblazer Small and Medium Business Award’.

PowerSmart’s core business is the design and installation of high quality solar power systems, from residential/commercial retail systems to complex utility scale projects in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific. PowerSmart is uniquely experienced in designing solar power systems for harsh and remote environments and has taken special care to design a robust system suitable for tropical atolls.  The system is designed with respect to the high ambient temperatures, salt-laden air, and risk of cyclones and/or flooding.


For stories and updates from the families who have relocated to Tokelau see our Facebook page:



"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.