NZ student helps Tonga develop renewable energy system
A global mineworkers union is taking its campaign against Rio Tinto to the people of Bougainville.
A model renewable power system for the Tongan islands of Ha'apai is being developed by a post-graduate student at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
During last year's Cyclone Ian, Ha'apai's two diesel generators were destroyed.
The Tongan government says it is now committed to converting a portion of the kingdom's electricity generation from renewable energy sources.
Supervising lecturer Dr Andrew Lapthorn told Koro Vaka'uta that Hantt Cao is assisting by developing a model of a hybrid energy system.
ANDREW LAPTHORN: Tonga Power Limited were interested in seeing what it would be like if they added a renewable power system because as part of the Tonga energy road map the government is looking at increasing the amount of renewable electricity generation in the country to help ease oil price shocks. Up until a few years ago all the electricity generated in Tonga was from diesel power generators. Adding more renewable generation, mainly in the form of solar panels and cells, they can help insulate themselves from changes in oil price. My student Hantt, he's looking at what would a renewable energy system look like for the Ha'apai group. He is doing a bunch of economic modelling and power system modelling to figure out what the best mix of generation sources are, where you would put them, how much would it cost to implement it. The idea is that TPL will be able to use this as a sort of template in order to get enough funding to implement it.
KORO VAKA'UTA: People look at renewable energy and they think things like wind and solar and there's an abundance of that in the Pacific but what are some of the challenges that go with a project like this?
AL: You're right in saying that wind and solar would be the most suited forms of renewable electricity for the Pacific islands and that is exactly what we've discovered as well. The thing about that is they only really generate electricity when the sun's shining or the wind is blowing and people like to use electricity at night time so there's a difficult to predict exactly how that's gonna perform. From our point of view, you'd want to supply a reliable power system so when you go to switch your light on or use your air conditioning or whatever, it's gonna work because the power will be there. We're looking at various storage options for storing electricity in times when it's quite sunny or windy. Store that electricity for later use and when the clouds go in front of the sun the amount of generation output from a solar farm can drop away quite quickly. That can cause issues to the ability of the system, keeping the voltage at the right level and the frequency at the right level. There is some technical challenges.
KV: So it's, it will be used for something tangible.
AL: Yeah well that's our hope. At this stage our university doesn't have enough money to fund actual implementation of a scheme of this scale. It would be a few million dollars to actually implement it. I imagine to get that off the ground it would need some external aid and an aid agency would be more likely to fund a project like this once you've got a bit of decent research behind it.
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