Climate change is a thing! Last week U.S. president Obama called the impact of the climate change on the arctic “really scary”. Just three months ago the G7 leaders of the world’s major industrial democracies agreed to phase out fossil fuel by the end of the century to fight negative environmental effects.
The message seems clear: If we want to leave our children and future generations a sustainable planet we must act now. Renewable energy technology is one of the most obvious answers to the question how to reverse the dramatic effects of environmental pollution. In order to do so sustainable energy solutions need not only to be integrated in our power grids but replace fossil and nuclear energy sources.
The Tokelaun flag
Surprisingly the first country that tackled this major challenge and is now relying completely on solar energy is neither a G7 member nor is it very well-known: it’s Tokelau a tiny island chain in the South Pacific. For those of you who are now wondering where this “green” country is located we marked it in map below.
Tokelau is one of the most remote and isolated countries in the world with only 1500 inhabitants distributed over three small atolls in the South Pacific Ocean.
With the main villages located only 1-3m above the sea level the impact of melting ice in the arctic (and therefore the rising sea level) as well as the effects of hurricanes and storms are a lot heavier in Tokelau than in most other countries.
Over the past years electricity was provided by several diesel generators. The diesel power supply has not only been expensive (the fuel came with small ships from Samoa) but also unreliable.
A solution fixing the power blackouts and being in line with the Tokelaun peoples closeness to nature was needed – and found.
Located near the equator solar energy is the perfect fit for the small country. The now installed 1 MW system is the biggest standalone power system in the world with more than 290 inverters to convert the direct current produced by the photovoltaic panels into the alternating current necessary for electrical appliances and has been realised mainly by SMA Solar Technology AG.
The Sunny Island inverters delivered by SMA control the standalone systems on the three coral islands (image: SMA Solar Technology)
The three PV hybrid systems were installed by PowerSmart Solar of New Zealand. Work on the project started in mid-June using a total of 4,032 photovoltaic panels, 298 SMA inverters, 121 SMA Sunny Island Chargers and 1,344 batteries. A representative of SMA Australia spent almost a month in Tokelau offering training and support. Official commissioning took place on October 30th at a local ceremony, attended by Tokelaun leaders.
Official commissioning of the system took place on October 30th at a local ceremony (image: SMA Solar Technology)
The problems and solutions of Tokelau offer us the chance to take a look in our own future in which we will have to implement innovative technology reducing our environmental footprint much faster. The difference is that we have the chance to act before we feel the full impact of the climate change.
[Video] How Tokelau Switched to Solar Energy
header image: SMA Solar Technology