Filed under ‘success stories’ with New Zealand’s Ministry for Trade and Enterprise, the South Pacific nation of Tokelau is about to become world’s first solar-powered country, putting an end to its dependance on diesel generators. As the ministry explains, Powersmart Solar, a Mount Maunganui-based company, is lead contractor on the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project (TREP). This winter, the island nation’s diesel generators are being replaced with 4032 solar panels (one megawatt of solar), 392 inverters, and 1344 batteries (each weighing 250kg). The initiative will enable Tokelau to meet 100 per cent of its climate change obligations, while becoming the first wholly solar-powered nation on earth.
While Tokelau’s political and economic significance can be disputed (the three atolls only count approx. 1,400 inhabitants, 3 cars and no significant industry – Wikipedia), its move to solar power nevertheless marks a big change and one surely closely watched by other Pacific island states. After all, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Pacific Island countries are among the most petroleum-dependent nations and territories in the world. The UNDP contributed around US$450,000 and significant technical support over 11 years towards the goal of solar powering Tokelau. The Government of Tokelau also leveraged approximately NZ$8.5 million (US$ 6.8 million) in grants and soft loans from New Zealand for the TREP.
Tokelau’s government estimates the country will save 12,000 tonnes of CO2 over the life of the solar power plant. Whether the country’s laudable initiative to protect the climate – among other – will be rewarded by a stable, protective climate and environmental conditions in return (e.g. sea level rise), is, unfortunately, far from sure.
Picture credit: Sam Howzit, creative commons, Flickr