Tonga eyes wind energy future

Tonga’s first wind turbine could be the first step towards turning the Pacific island nation into a green energy powerhouse.

Work on the 11kW turbine in the village of Nakolo was completed this week ahead of commissioning this month.

Operator Tonga Power said the turbine will generate 27,000kWh of electricity, enough to power about 23 homes every year in the country, which has so far invested in solar systems to reduce its expensive fossil fuel imports. The country already has a 1.3MW solar farm and is working with Abu Dhabi-based Masdar to develop a 500kW solar PV project on the island of Vava’u.

However, project manager Seti Chan told Radio New Zealand that Tonga’s average wind speed of between six and nine metres per second meant wind energy also has great potential in the country. The Nakolo turbine was installed to provide Tonga Power with experience in wind generation and to see if there is enough wind resource to power a larger wind farm.

Chan added that he hoped the project would attract more international funding to develop the technology further in Tonga.

“Some of the reports that have come through give an approximate figure of probably about, at most, 2.3MW,” he said. “So that certainly is a big potential because the current Ma’ama Mai solar farm that’s currently operating here on Tongatapu is about a 1.3MW capacity.