Tokelau generates electricity solely from solar energy

A group of three tiny islands in the South Pacific are now able to entirely use solar power to meet their energy needs.

The islands of the Tokelau territory “now have enough solar capacity, on average, to meet electricity needs,” said New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. He went on to say that the project is the “world’s first,” and called the $7 million NZ project an “excellent example of how small Pacific nations can lead the way on renewable energy development.”

Tokelau, which is a territory of New Zealand, previously had to rely on imported diesel to power its islands, which had “heavy economic and environmental costs,” according to McCully. Of course, it’s worth noting that these islands are extremely small, with a total land area of only 12 square kilometers and a population of 1,500 — but that’s not stopping New Zealand from looking to use what it learned in Tokelau elsewhere. The country is planning to co-host a South Pacific clean energy summit next March along with Tokelau, Tonga, and the Cook Islands.

The remote Pacific islands of Tokelau have become the first territory in the world to generate their electricity entirely from solar energy, in a project hailed as an environmental milestone.

Before the solar power grid was completed, the New Zealand-administered grouping of three coral atolls, with a population of just 1,500, relied on diesel generators for electricity.

Project coordinator Mike Bassett-Smith said the diesel was not only environmentally unfriendly, it also cost the islands, which lie about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, around NZ$1.0 million ($825,000) a year.

Bassett-Smith, from New Zealand firm PowerSmart Solar, said the change would allow Tokelau to switch money from fuel purchases to social welfare projects.

“For Tokelau, this milestone is of huge importance for their continued well-being,” he said in a statement received Wednesday.

“Many Pacific nations struggle to provide a high proportion of their people access to electricity, and even when they do, access to affordable electricity is a significant additional challenge.”

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the US$7.0 million project had achieved a world first and Wellington was working with other Pacific nations such as Tonga and the Cook Islands to develop renewable energy.

“Completed on time and on budget, the project is an excellent example of how small Pacific nations can lead the way on renewable energy,” he said.