Tokelau becomes the world’s first 100% solar powered country

Tokelau is one of the world’s most remote countries - and the first to be powered fully by PV. SMA Solar Technology AG (SMA) delivered 93 Sunny Island inverters to control the standalone systems on the three coral islands and 205 Sunny Boy inverters to convert the direct current produced by the photovoltaic panels into the alternating current necessary for electrical appliances. The 1 MW system is the biggest standalone power system in the world.

Tokelau consists of three small atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. Its land area covers 10 square kilometres and it is located north of Samoa, reachable only by boat. Traditionally, all three atolls have relied almost exclusively on diesel generators for their electricity needs, but it has recently become the only country in the world to be fully powered by solar power.

Not only is the 1 MW overall system the biggest standalone solar power system on earth, but each one of the three individual systems by itself is bigger than any other SMA Sunny Island based system currently in existence, exceeding the current energy requirements of the 1,411 locals who live there and meeting 100% of their climate change obligations.

The three PV hybrid systems were installed by PowerSmart Solar of New Zealand. Work on the project started in mid-June using a total of 4,032 photovoltaic panels, 298 SMA inverters, 121 SMA Sunny Island Chargers and 1,344 batteries. A representative of SMA Australia spent almost a month in Tokelau offering training and support. Official commissioning took place on October 30th at a local ceremony, attended by Tokelaun leaders.

“SMA was chosen for this project because of the high quality and technical advancement of our products. We were also able to offer comprehensive training to the Tokelaun people so that they can maintain their system themselves while relying on our service team to provide technical consultation when necessary,” explains Zygmunt Nejman, General Manager of SMA Australia. “This is a perfect example of our long term commitment to the island nations of the South Pacific, where this type of PV hybrid system is ideal. We are proud to have been able to support PowerSmart Solar and the New Zealand government in achieving fossil fuel independence for Tokelau.”

“The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project has been a great success,” says Joe Suveinakama, general manager of the National Public Service of the Government of Tokelau, in Apia, Samoa. “Our commitment as global citizens is to make a positive contribution towards the mitigation of the impacts of climate change. As a people we are proud of this achievement.“ 

Tokelau's diesel generators used to burn up to 200 litres of fuel daily on each atoll. Now, the country has eliminated it’s dependency on fossil fuels and can focus on repaying funds borrowed to implement this project. The nation also plans to address priorities in health and education using the savings from fuel costs.