Pacific Island of Tongatapu Turns to Sustainable Energy

Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Oceania, Tech

Small island nations living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean often rely on diesel generators for power. Besides the environmental problems associated with diesel, the logistics involved in shipping in the stuff are also complex and very expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice, then, to generate electricity in loco, using light that comes from the sun?

This is exactly what the island of Tongatapu is doing. With $7.9 million in funding from the New Zealand government, it has completed a solar farm that will provide five percent of its electricity needs. Tongatapu has a population of just over 104,500 people and currently consumes around eight million gallons of diesel per year.

As oil prices soar, so does diesel’s prices, meaning electricity generation gets more expensive all the time. It has become so costly that last year electricity costs corresponded to 9.5 percent of the island’s gross domestic product.

The new solar farm will generate 1 MW of electricity per year and is expected to save the island 124,000 gallons per year, or 1.55 percent less diesel than it currently consumes. Located near the capital Nuku’alofa, the project is called Maama Mai, which means “let there be light.” But this is just the beginning. Tongatapu intends to get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Other Pacific islands are turning to solar to meet emission targets and to save money. Tokelau, which is a territory of New Zealand and lies around 311 miles north of Samoa, is about to go fully solar with the installation of a solar energy system that will be spread across it three atolls. This way Tokelau will become the first nation in the world to become 100 percent powered with solar energy.

Photo: PV Tech

Antonio Pasolini is a Corporate Social Responsibility writer for Justmeans, Antonio Pasolini is a journalist based in Brazil who writes about alternative energy, green living and sustainability. He also edits, a top web destination for news and comment on renewable energy and, a recycled paper bag/magazine distributed from health food stores in London, formerly his hometown for over a decade. He is also a happy herbivore.


Justmeans is the world’s leading source of information and connections for the sustainable business industry. Founded in 2008, the company rapidly grew its online community of practitioners, investors, journalists, activists, and students to 250,000 registered users. A wide variety of companies rely on Justmeans news distribution services to create, distribute, and analyze performance on media releases related to social and environmental performance. Justmeans is also the publisher of the Social Innovation Awards and a number of leading conferences in the sustainable business industry.

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