Tonga Successfully Completes Energy Project

30 August 2009 | News story

Two islands in the Ha’apai group in Tonga have access to electricity once again after a 6 – 10 year lapse. The islands of Mango and Mo’unga’one recently received a total of 64 solar home systems for a total of 60 households on both islands providing them with the essential access to light at night. The installation on both islands was successfully completed in June of this year with the systems running as expected for the past month.
 

The Ha’apai group of islands, scattered 200km North of Tongatapu (Tonga’s main island) is made up of 60 small islands, 17 of which are inhabited. The remoteness of these islands places diesel as an important energy consumption, especially needed for transportation and lighting. On average a household on both islands would spend 5-6 litres of imported fuel per day, particularly for lighting. The provision of the new solar systems has thus greatly reduced the fuel consumption needed for lighting.

Both islands had received solar systems before dating back to 1991 for Mango and 1995 for Mo’unga’one. The systems on both islands become dysfunctional after 7 years with the villagers returning to kerosene lamps for lighting.

Better than before

“Before we had the solar lights running again we relied on kerosene lamps, we would live in the dark after the kerosene supply ran out and we had to do everything during the day,” says the church minister’s wife on Mango Island. Most people on Mango travel to Nukualofa, the capital city, once a month by ferry to obtain necessary supplies for the island and to sell fish and handicraft. Travel to and from the island is expensive as the price of diesel fuel has been quite high.

“We are very grateful for the lights, it has made our lives much easier” is a sentiment that is echoed by both villages. Anau, from the island of Mo’unga’one and designated technician for the island says that with the new solar lights they are able to have village meetings during the night, their children attend to night classes and the women tend to their weaving.

The new system

Amongst other specifications each household is provided with a 2x85W solar panel and a 100AH 12V deep cycle battery based on a load of 30 – 35 AH per day. Four 13W energy efficient lights and one 0.5W LED night light is provided, with additional lights provided for community halls and churches. Plugs to charge mobile phones are also provided in the system. The design of the system has been improved to cater to technical and institutional needs. The Government of Tonga through its Ha’apai Solar Electricity Society has stringent guidelines in place to maintain the effectiveness and sustainability of the systems.

Work in progress

The government of Tonga hopes to have 50% of their electricity supply powered by renewables by 2013 and is already working to meet this target by installing solar home systems across the islands in the Kingdom. So far eight islands in the Ha’apai group, including Mango and Mo’unga’one, have received solar systems. Also, through these renewable energy projects, the government is working to electrify the remaining 22% of its rural population.

The installation of solar home systems on the islands of Mango and Mo’unga’one is part of a project the Government of Tonga has been working in close collaboration with IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with the support of the Governments of Austria and Italy.Tonga's project is the first to be completed, of the six projects IUCN Oceania is coordinating in the region.