The South Pacific Ocean’s Cook Islands archipelago has taken a big step towards meeting its 2020 100 per cent renewables target, with half of its 12 inhabited islands in the process of being converted from mostly diesel power to solar and battery storage only.
The massive project, which is being led by specialist power and water consulting firm Entura, has kicked off with Mitiaro – the first of six southern islands – whose solar and battery storage system was officially opened last Friday.
Hybrid energy projects on another three southern islands – Atiu, Mangaia and Mauke – will be completed over the coming months, followed by a range of other initiatives on a further two
islands, Rarotonga and Aitutaki, which have higher power demands.
As we have reported on One Step, the island of Rarotonga already has some renewable energy infrastructure already in place – with a 5.6MWh battery system added to the existing 1MW Te Mana Ra solar farm by NSW-based MPower in June last year.
Entura said on Tuesday that power systems there and at Aitutaki would be upgraded to increase levels of renewable energy generation and provide control systems and battery storage to manage high levels of renewables.
“Energy security and self-sufficiency are essential for remote islands such as the Cook Islands,” said Entura’s Managing Director, Tammy Chu.
“Diesel fuel remains the single largest expense to generate power in these remote locations, so using renewable energy makes good economic sense as well as reducing carbon and other emissions.”
As part of the project, Entura is providing Owner’s Engineer services, as well assessing technical, environmental, social and economic viability, supporting procurement and overseeing implementation.
The Melbourne-based company, which is rapidly becoming a regional specialist in shifting islands to renewables, has also delivered strategic advice to assist with energy policy development for the Cook Islands.
Elsewhere, Entura has been engaged by the Asian Development Bank to investigate the feasibility of renewable energy projects aimed at helping Tonga and the Federated States of Micronesia achieve their own renewable energy targets.
In Australia, it is working on a practical atlas of pumped hydro energy storage opportunities for Tasmanian utility Hydro Tasmania, to support its “battery of the nation” program.
“Enabling safe and sustainable renewable power developments that make a positive and enduring contribution to communities is very important to us, and we are pleased to bring our expertise to assist our Pacific neighbours with their renewable energy journeys,” Chu said.
The Cook Islands project was also backed by the Asian Development Bank, with a loan of $NZ12.98 million, on top of a European Union Grant of €5.3 million, committed funding from the Global Environment Facility of $US4.1 million, a product grant of Pacific Environment Community (PEC) of $US3.9 million, and government allocation for dedicated resource and land compensation.