With the Pacific Island Forum in full swing, Foreign Minister Murray McCully has taken the opportunity to announce that New Zealand will invest $7.9 million to fund the construction of a 1.5 mega watt photovoltaic solar plant in Tonga. What’s more exciting is that the technology has been designed on our own shores by Auckland-based Reid Technology. Once complete, the massive solar installation is expected to produce about four percent of Tonga’s annual generation (1880 MWh generation vs ~48GWh load), and will offset approximately 470,000 litres of diesel per annum.
The project is a public-private partnership between Meridian Energy, Tonga Power Limited, and the Tongan Government.
In making the announcement, McCully said it was important to reduce the Pacific’s reliance on fossil fuel and promote the uptake of renewable energy — both major topics up for discussion at the Pacific Island Forum.
"This public-private partnership is an exciting approach to delivering aid that also represents a possible model for similar infrastructure projects in the Pacific,” he said.
Tongan Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano, said the project will bolster the Tongan Government's Energy Road Map — a 10 year plan to reduce reliance on imported fuel for electricity generation.
"The Tonga Government is grateful for such an assistance, which will contribute to Tonga's target of reducing fossil fuel use by 50 percent by the end of 2012," he said.
Norman Smith of Anvil Design Group has been consulting with Reid Technology on the calculations and design of the solar installation. He said the company's been working on the project since the start of the year.
"It's taken a long time to get the ducks in a row," he said.
The solar installation in Tonga is far from the company's first in the Pacific. It has already completed a 57kWp grid connect system for the College of the Marshall Islands, which is the largest grid connect system in the Pacific, excluding Australia, but including New Zealand. In 2008 it also fitted out Auckland International Airport with a 29.75kW grid connect solar system.
Reid Technology entered the alternative energy and solar power market in 1995, when the BP Solar agency and staff were acquired from the Forgan Jones Company. The company also introduced Beasley (now Rinnai) Solar Hot Water systems to New Zealand.