$28M solar project to be constructed in Tuvalu and the Cooks
The construction of solar generation systems, which will provide for 95 percent of the electricity demands in parts of Tuvalu and the Cook Islands, are to begin in September.
The construction of solar generation systems, which will provide for 95 percent of the electricity demands in parts of Tuvalu and the Cook Islands, is to begin in September.
The 28 million US dollar project is funded by the New Zealand government.
Richard Cullwick of PowerShop, the New Zealand-based company in charge of the project, says it makes economic and environmental sense for Pacific Island countries to no longer rely on diesel.
But Mr Cullwick told Mary Baines the project is not without its challenges.
RICHARD CULLWICK: All of these islands are reliant 100 percent on diesel for generating all of their power. From our experience with Tokelau, which is another project we did a couple of years ago, we found that essentially 95 percent of all their power needs can come from solar power. In Tuvalu, we've got four different islands, in the northern Cooks there's six different islands, and there's 12 different systems across those islands. There's 7,500 solar panels that will in total be 1.9 megawatts of solar power, there's 75,000 stainless bolts will be used in the construction, we have over 3,500 batteries weighing over 6,000,000 kilos that all have to get up into the islands, 7,600 tons worth of equipment and materials - so that's including concrete et cetera for the civil works, that all has to go from New Zealand up to various parts of the South Pacific. It's a massive undertaking.
MARY BAINES: So how do you do that?
RC: We have everything from chartering planes to having boats freighting stuff up. We've got three different civil construction install teams and we've also got three specific solar install teams. To keep everything flowing the civil construction teams will be jumping around from island to island and then followed behind by the solar install teams. In a lot of these cases, these islands are so small and so far between that it can take 15,20 hours to go by boat from one island to the next. So these are really little atolls in a large blue ocean.
MB: To ensure ongoing maintenance in the Cooks and Tuvalu will there be resident expertise to keep things going on?
RC: We will be working with locals where we can. That's both in the construction and also in the ongoing looking after it. The teams also do train locals and how the systems run, what they need to do, how they need to keep them running to their optimal performance.
MB: With this project, what's your expectation in terms of cutting down the diesel use and costs?
RC: I don't have a number for that. It's not just I guess about sustanability and the environment, it also just makes economic sense. Once we install that the amount of diesel that needs to get shipped to those islands pretty much disappears. So that in itself, from an ongoing perspective, makes economic sense.
Richard Cullwick says construction will be completed by early 2015.
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