The 2.2MW solar array, said to be the largest in the region, has been completed at the Apia race course in the South Pacific island of Samoa.
Along with two other solar projects in Samoa, these are expected to supply approximately 4,400 households, meeting a total of 4.5% of the national energy demand.
Speaking at the inauguration, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi described it as a “landmark event.”
“Samoa is blessed with abundant sunshine, good running rivers and prevailing trade winds. These resources provide a good base from which we can derive sustainable and renewable energy.”
The project was commissioned under the European Union-New Zealand Energy Access Partnership, which was launched at the 2013 Pacific Energy Summit. More than 50 projects are under development following that event, which was aimed to stimulate investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the region.
100% renewable energy
In his address, Prime Minister Tuilaepa referred to the “challenging goals” for renewable energy use as articulated in Samoa’s Energy Sector plan. By 2016 a 10% reduction in fossil fuel use is anticipated, balanced by a 10% increase in the supply of renewable energy. The interim target is 100% renewable energy in terms of power generation by 2017.
“The task will not be easy. However with the support through partnerships and collaboration with our communities to enhance awareness of the benefits and impacts of renewable energy, the target is within reach.”
Samoa has a total population of 188,000 people. About 70% lives on Upolu, the main island and location of the capital, Apia. Around 95% of households have access to grid electricity, while the remaining 5% are connected to small diesel generators or solar systems in urban and rural areas.
In 2012 Samoa had a total installed grid-connected power capacity of about 42MW, including 30MW of diesel generators and 11MW in hydropower plants. Like most island nations, Samoa is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels. In order to reduce exposure to foreign exchange fluctuations and fuel price increases, a high priority has been placed on the development of indigenous and renewable energy resources such as small hydropower and solar.
Energy Access Partnership
In addition to the Apia solar plant, other projects in Samoa resulting from the EU-New Zealand Energy Access Partnership include the rehabilitation of hydropower plants damaged in cyclones (in particular Cyclone Evan in December 2012) and the construction of new hydropower plants.
Other projects in the South Pacific include:
● Tuvalu – construction of solar plants for Tuvalu’s outer islands
● Cook Islands – building of eight solar mini-grids for the Northern Group outer islands, six solar power plants for the Southern Group outer islands, and a grid-connected PV solar plant in Rarotonga
● Kiribati – an agreement to develop renewable energy, focusing on Kiritimati Island.
The Partnership is aimed at funding renewable energy projects in the Pacific, and involves other partners including the Asian Development Bank.