New Zealand High Commission Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Ground-breaking ceremony to mark the construction of 1 MW Solar Farm for Tonga

Acting High Commissioner Dominic Walton-France and Acting Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu help break the ground for the Popua Solar Farm

A ground-breaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of the Popua Solar Farm was held on 10 November in Nuku’alofa, and attended by Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Samiu Vaipulu.

The project, the first of its kind in the Kingdom of Tonga, will see the construction of a 1MW photovoltaic solar farm. It is a partnership between the Government of Tonga, Tonga Power Limited, Meridian Energy, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The activity supports the Tongan Government’s Energy Road Map, a 10-year plan to reduce reliance on imported fuel for electricity generation and reach 50% generation from renewable sources by 2012. Currently Tonga relies almost wholly on costly imported diesel to power its electricity networks on four of its largest islands. It is expected the solar farm will generate approximately 1880MWh of electricity per annum.

The solar plant will be located next to Tonga Power’s Popua diesel power station on the main island of Tongatapu. It will reduce the station’s annual diesel consumption by approximately 470,000 litres, decreasing carbon dioxide emissions by over two thousand tonnes each year. The project will also contribute to the local economy, providing work for Tongan-based contractors for the duration of the construction phase. The project is also expected to lift the knowledge and skills of local suppliers in the solar panel and renewables industries.

Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Dominic Walton-France said,

"We are very pleased to see Tonga leading the way in the Pacific on sourcing a greater proportion of its energy needs from renewable sources. Through the Tonga Energy Road Map, the Government of Tonga has shown great commitment to reducing its reliance on diesel and seeking lower power prices for its consumers. It’s also fantastic to see a true partnership with our largest state-owned enterprise Meridian Energy Limited, teaming up with Tonga’s largest SOE Tonga Power Limited, to achieve these objectives for Tonga. ”

The project will receive $9 million from New Zealand Aid Programme allocation to Tonga. Work on the Popua Solar Farm is expected to run from November 2011, with completion planned for July 2012.

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