Powering the Pacific - launch of Tuvalu solar project

30 May 2010 | News story

The Vaitupu community; an island atoll located 112 km northeast of Tuvalu’s capital - Funafuti are celebrating the recent handover of the Tuvalu Photo Voltaic Electricity Network Integration Project (TPVENIP) by IUCN to the Tuvalu government.

The handover, on 15 April, was celebrated with pomp as the Chiefs, representatives of the Kaupule, central government, local community and the Motufoua Secondary School community gathered at the school to witness the commissioning and handing over of the project. Traditional dancing and feasting marked the day as students and teachers entertained guests in a show of jubilation.

Speaking at the event, the Minister for Energy Honourable Kuasea Natano reflected the government’s appreciation of the donation generously made by the governments of Italy and Austria for the project which contributes to Tuvalu’s plan of combating the escalating price of imported fuel, particularly for the island of Vaitupu. Tuvalu has a target of obtaining 100% of its electricity generation from renewable energy sources by the year 2020.

Representing IUCN, Mr Anare Matakiviti, IUCN Energy Programme Coordinator said “IUCN is privileged to work in partnership with the governments of Italy and Austria in promoting low carbon and energy-efficient techologies in six Pacific Island Countries including Tuvalu.” The project in Tuvalu, is unique he said, as it is the first of its kind in the Pacific region where a storage facility (battery bank) has been used. The use of the battery bank would allow the system to provide power even when there is no sunshine.

The TPVENI Project managed by IUCN, through its Regional Office in Suva, Fiji is located at the Motufoua Secondary School, one of Tuvalu’s government-owned high schools. The school, attended by about 500 students now has access to a 24-hour power supply, something that has been wished for since the school was established in the early 1900s.

“We are particularly pleased with the donors for funding such a project; the contractors for their quick delivery and the fact that the school was chosen as the project site,” says Mr Mosese Halofaki the principal of Motofuoua Secondary School. Mr Halofaki emphasised that schools are ideal locations for this type of project because they are where future leaders are trained and so opportunities should be provided for students to learn about development projects. “The project completion is also timely as it will complement the school’s plan of extending its curriculum activities to include vocational training which will require more power supply,” he adds.

The total cost of the project is just over $700,000 and is integrated into the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation grid network. It will allow the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation to save about 120 litres of diesel fuel per day. This translates into about 43,800 litres per year with a monetary value of around $80,000. The project began in 2009 and will be monitored until 2011.

For more information on this renewable energy project and others that IUCN is currently managing, please contact anare.matakiviti@iucn.org