Samoa gets 546kW solar PV plant as South Pacific solar usage grows

South Pacific Island efforts to reduce dependence on costly and polluting diesel fuel continue, with the installation of 546kW of solar PV across the islands of Samoa – the independent state’s largest solar project yet.

The project, developed by US company SunWize Technologies in conjunction with Samoan power utility Electric Power Corporation (EPC), spans three separate sites on two of Samoa’s islands: Savai’I and Upolu.

The system features ground-mount PV installations in both the Salelologa community of Savai’I and the Tanugamanono community of Upolu, while a third site, Vaitele, Upolu, is home to an additional ground-mount installation and a solar canopy for equipment storage.

The project, which was financed by the government of Japan through the Pacific Environment Community Fund, is SunWize’s third such project in the region.

The California-based company has also successfully installed 1.8MW at the airport in nearby American Samoa in 2012, and a smaller system at the VA Hospital in Pago Pago.

“Our previous projects in American Samoa and Pago Pago required a solar electric system that could withstand 124-mile per hour typhoon force winds and corrosive ocean air,” said SunWize president and COO, David Kaltsas.

“We applied similar design and engineering principals to the ground mount systems and the solar canopy while also ensuring seamless alignment with the existing electric grid. We’re thrilled to be providing Independent Samoa with a robust source of clean energy.”

Rapa Young, EPC’s solar project team leader, said Samoa’s latest solar project moved the island group away from its dependence on expensive imported diesel fuel and closer to independence using clean, reliable energy.

Solar has become a more and more popular solution to the energy problems of island nations, as well as to the problem of surviving climate change – the subject of the 44th Pacific Islands forum in September last year.

Tokelau – a New Zealand protectorate in the South Pacific made up of three atolls whose highest point is only five meters above sea level – has three solar PV systems, one on each atoll, which provide 150 per cent of their current electricity demand.

The Kingdom of Tonga switched on its own maiden solar plant in July 2012 – another New Zealand-funded project.

Top image: Map of Samoa, via Wikipedia

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson