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The Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP) commissioned the first grid-connected solar power system on the Pacific Island of Tuvalu in 2008.
Like many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Tuvalu, an archipelago consisting of nine coral islands in the South Pacific Ocean, has been heavily reliant on imported fuel for its diesel power generation system.
Given the soaring increase of oil prices on the one hand and the significant potential for renewable energy sources in Tuvalu on the other, particularly wind and solar, the government of Tuvalu and the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation (TEC) expressed their will to switch from full reliance on increasingly expensive oil imports to an energy system with an increased share of renewable energy sources.
In response to the conclusions drawn from a series of workshops organised jointly with the Pacific Power Association (PPA) on the potential of renewable energy in the Pacific region, the Partnership undertook the implementation of the first pilot model of a grid-connected solar power system in Tuvalu.
The project features a grid-connected solar system which accounts for about 5% of Funafuti’s (Tuvalu’s capital) peak demand, and 3% of TEC’s annual household consumption. The project will contribute to powering Tuvalu’s households, healthcare facilities, small and medium enterprises and other local development infrastructure, based on a clean renewable energy source.
After a year-long pre-feasibility and feasibility study phase followed by a three-month construction and testing period, the Tuvalu Solar Power Project was inaugurated on February 21, 2008, in Funafuti, Tuvalu. The inauguration ceremony was attended by government officials, diplomatic representatives, dignitaries from the Tuvalu Energy Department and TEC, as well as high-level representatives from the Partnership’s member companies.
Tuvalu is one the places on earth that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The sea level rise associated with global warming threatens the very livelihood of the 10,000 Tuvaluans residing on the nine extremely low-lying coral atolls. The Solar Power Project in Tuvalu sends a symbolic message about the importance of global and concerted action for the promotion of sustainable energy development worldwide and the fight against climate change
Upon commissioning, the project entered a two-year monitoring period. During this monitoring phase, the Partnership’s team, in close collaboration with local stakeholders, focused its efforts on ensuring local ownership of the project and its sustainability. During its missions to the island, the Partnership’s team had to replace the cooling system in the inverter room. The temperature control in the inverter room was found to need closer monitoring than expected given the tropical climate in
Results from the monitoring phase showed that the solar power system’s operation and maintenance activities were running well, generating the intended 40kW of electricity. Based on the experience gained with the implementation and monitoring of this project, the Partnership’s team and its partners learned that in order to ensure the success of a solar power system on a remote island like Tuvalu, it is essential to account for longer time estimation, precise preparation prior to construction and stronger logistical management, such as arrangements for the transportation of construction material.