Renewable energy in Samoa

With the uncontrollable increases in the cost of imported oil and the threats of climate change, the Corporation underscores heavily the urgent need to tap into least cost renewable and alternative energy resources for its electricity generation.

A Renewable Energy Unit was set up in 2007 to manage and develop projects associated with renewable energy (RE) activities such as wind, solar, hydro and bio-energy. This includes initiating high quality research and analysis and providing actual project implementation support to increase Samoa’s use of environmentally friendly renewable sources of energy.

Renewable energy is energy created by natural means which are effectively inexhaustible. Renewable energy may be supplied by many sources including the sun, wind, rivers (hydropower), the ocean (wave energy) and plants (biomass/biofuel). These renewable energies can be developed in such a way that there are minimal environmental impacts, particularly with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.

Minimising greenhouse gas emissions is of increasing importance with the important issue of global warming and climate change. These isssues are already being seen to impact fragile environments around the globe. Scientists predict that the observed trends of sea level rise, rainfall fluctuations and alterations in natural phenomenon such as tropical cyclones will have increasingly significant impacts on the livelihoods, economies and natural environments of small pacific island countries such as Samoa. Therefore the need to develop means of producing electricity via methods which do not increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is recognised globally.

Renewable energy achieves this goal, while also having the advantage of providing natural, locally made electricity, which does not depend on imported fuel for its production. With increasing scarcity of oil and uncertainty of the security of global supplies, oil prices have been rising steadily in recent years – a trend which many experts see escalating into the future. This leaves developing countries such as Samoa vulnerable to price increases, driving up electricity and transport costs and hindering economic and social development.

EPC places a high priority on developing renewable energy sources, to:

Improve Samoa’s energy security;
Reduce environmental impacts; and
Protect customers from increasing oil prices.

EPC’s Existing Renewable Energy

The EPC has a long history in renewable energy, with Samoa’s first small hydroelectric power station having been installed at Alaoa in 1959. Throughout the next 50 years additional small run-of-river hydro stations were commissioned progressively, as well as Afulilo reservoir with Samoa’s largest single hydro capacity of 4 megawatts (MW).

EPC’s currently operating hydropower installations are:

Taelefaga (Afulilo)

These hydropower stations provided up to 85% of Samoa’s electricity during the mid-1990s. However, growing demand due to increased provision of electricity to the wider population and uptake of improved electricity services such as refrigeration, air conditioning and televisions has reduced hydropower’s proportion of supply to 50% and below. Therefore EPC recognise the importance of making further investments in other sources of renewable energy.

Hydro Monitoring and Data Collection Project

The EPC is currently implementing the Hydro Monitoring and Data Collection Programme, in collaboration with the Water Resource Division (WRD) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). The data and information from this Programme will assist the Corporation with making informed decisions on the development of the potential hydropower schemes.

Solar Power

With the successful completion of the completely self-sufficient solar photovoltaic (PV) power system installed on Apolima Island in 2006, the Corporation continues with the implementation of the Photovoltaic Rural Electrification Programme.

The Apolima Solar uses a battery storage system and mini-grid for distribution, the 13 kilowatt (kW) system provides 24 hour power to residents on the island – completely free of greenhouse gases, other air pollution emissions, and noise. This remote location off the main Samoan electricity grids is the ideal application of stand-alone solar power, where diesel delivery and operational costs are highest.

The Corporation in October 2010, donated solar home system sets to 25 families, 2 Government Ministries and an NGO. These sets were donated by China Electric Equipment Group to the Government of Samoa, following the 29/9/09 tsunami disaster.
The families who received these sets were identified through a survey carried out by the Corporation in 2008, for households located more than 2km from the electrical grid. These solar powered systems will provide basic lighting for these households.

Prior to this ceremony, the Corporation’s Renewable Energy Unit conducted trainings for these families on how to install and maintain these sets, as they are responsible for this part. The Corporation will carry out inspection of the installations and supply the batteries prior to commissioning these systems.

Coconut Oil for Electricity Generation

The Corporation in partnership with SOPAC and UNDP executed a pilot project in early 2005 with the implementation of a study on the feasibility of coconut oil as a biofuel to generate electricity. A blend of 10% coconut oil and 90% diesel was tested on engine #2A at Salelologa Power Station.

In 2009, EPC trialed three of its four diesel generators at the Tanugamanono Power Station on a blend of 5% coconut oil and 95% diesel, which were successful.

Coconut Oil for Vehicles
the Corporation implemented the CocoTran Project two years ago, which aimed at determining the technical and financial feasibility of utilizing coconut oil in the Corporation’s vehicles. Consequently, three EPC vehicles operated satisfactorily on coconut oil/jet fuel blend. However, due to the unavailability of coconut oil at that time, this project was put on hold.

Wind Power

With support from UNDP, SOPAC and Risoe National Laboratory, the Corporation in collaboration with MNRE and Ministry of Finance’s Energy Unit, continue to implement the Upolu and Savaii Wind Energy Assessment Project.

Two wind monitoring masts were installed at Satitoa Aleipata and Afulilo, to collect wind data. It has been reported that since installation, these masts have been collecting reliable wind data, as well as a host of other meteorological information.

The Savaii Wind Resource Assessment, an extension of the Upolu project will see the installation of wind monitoring stations at two locations in Savaii.

The most promising sources of larger scale power generation in Samoa are small run-of-river hydro, wind and biofuels. There are, however, many challenges to the uptake of these renewable energies, including a lack of data on renewable energy potential, land tenure agreements, and not least the often higher initial equipment capital costs.

Small hydropower

There is significant potential for further utilisation of small-scale hydropower around many of Samoa’s river systems. Over the years, rivers identified as having hydro potential on Savai’i are Vailoa, Lata, Vaita’i and Sili; while on Upolu are Namo, Lotofaga, Tafitoala and Faleseela.

The EPC are currently investigating the purchase and operation of equipment for monitoring hydro potential around the country and hope to increase the knowledge of the available hydro potential of these and other river systems.

Samoa Photovoltaic (PV) Rural Electrification Programme

This project hopes to provide the remaining non-electrified households in Samoa (5% of the population) with 24 hours supply of electricity using stand alone solar photovoltaic installations.

With the support of the UNDP, Government of Samoa, SOPAC, Government of Denmark’s PIEPSAP Project and ADB, a preparatory phase was undertaken for this project in early 2007. In 2008, the surveys were completed and the number of non-electrifies households were identified, and the outcomes of the preparatory phase were successfully achieved with potential mini-grid sites identified at Sa’aga, Aleisa and Apolima.

Samoa, formerly Western Samoa, is in the South Pacific Ocean about 2,200 mi (3,540 km) south of Hawaii. The larger islands in the Samoan chain, Upolu and Savai’i, are mountainous and of volcanic origin. There is little level land except in the coastal areas, where most cultivation takes place.

Polynesians, possibly from Tonga, first settled in the Samoan islands about 1000 B.C. Samoa was explored by Dutch and French traders in the 18th century. Toward the end of the 19th century, conflicting interests of the U.S., Britain, and Germany resulted in an 1899 treaty that recognized the paramount interests of the U.S. in those islands west of 171°W (American Samoa) and Germany’s interests in the other islands (Western Samoa).

New Zealand seized Western Samoa from Germany in 1914, and in 1946 it became a UN trust territory administered by New Zealand. A resistance movement to both German and New Zealand rule, known as the Mau (“strongly held view”) movement, helped to edge the islands toward independence on Jan. 1, 1962. A constitutional monarchy, Samoa has a legislative assembly whose members are from the matai, or titled class.

Barraged regularly by cyclones that have wreaked havoc on the country’s primarily agrarian economy, Samoa has begun stepping up its tourism industry—not such a difficult undertaking in this archetypal South Pacific paradise.

A referendum in 1990 gave women the right to vote for the first time. In 1997, a new constitutional amendment changed the country’s name to Samoa.