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Island Nation Now Runs Entirely On Solar Power

A one-megawatt solar power plant now provides150% of the electricity demand of a small Pacific island nation

smithsonian.com

Photo: Flickr user Orin Zebest

Far to the north of the coast of New Zealand, the teeny tiny island nation of Tokelau just finished making a full switch to solar power—a renewable investment that will help the nation’s roughly 1,400 people kick their $825,000 per year reliance on imported diesel.

Tokelau is a dependent territory of New Zealand, a total of 12 square kilometers of land stretched over three islands—Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo—that lie, at their highest point, just 16 feet above sea level. On top of the economic incentive of no longer needing to import so much fuel just to keep the lights on, says AlertNet’s Peter Madden, the switch is “a commitment to environmental sustainability on the frontier of climate change.”

Like other low-lying islands, “Tokelau is particularly vulnerable to climate change and will be among the first to feel its effects” as melting glacier ice and other shifts cause the sea level to rise.

Tokelau’s new solar-powered grid was built up over three months and consists of “4,032 photovoltaic panels and 1,344 batteries with generators running on biofuel derived from coconuts,” says UPI.com. The one-megawatt installation should be able to provide around 150% of Tokelau’s total electricity demand. By comparison, the same plant would power roughly 200 homes in the United States.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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