The South Pacific nation of Tokelau is aiming to ditch its diesel dependency and transform itself into the world’s first solar–powered country.
By September, Tokelau, a non self-governing territory of New Zealand located in the South Pacific Ocean, will become the world’s first 100-percent solar powered nation.
This is amazing from both an environmental standpoint and an economic one as well. The majority of Tokelau’s budget is paid for in aid from New Zealand and its 1400 residents are technically New Zealand citizens. Tokelau’s annual revenue is under $500,000, but the national budget is under $3 million. The diesel-fuelled electricity costs the nation over $1 million annually.
The three atolls that comprise Tokelau are phasing out diesel fuel to generate electricity and replacing it with over 4,000 solar panels which will utilize the abundant supply of scorching island sun. The first phase of solar panels has already been installed on one atoll, Fakaofo; the two remaining atolls are expected to have their panels installed by September.
During emergency periods and times of prolonged cloud cover, Tokelau’s solar generators will run on another indigenous resource: coconut oil. Both fuels will simultaneously recharge the battery bank storing up power for use during the night. According to a feasibility study, 200 coconuts are needed to make the 20 to 30 liters of fuel each atoll requires. Once the switch is complete, the only diesel needed on the island will power its tiny fleet of three automobiles. Maybe someday those will be solar-powered as well.
At over $7 million, the cost is hefty to the New Zealand government, but experts expect the panels to be paid off in 5 years, at which time they will provide electricity for almost two decades before needing serious maintenance.