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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Tonga Trials Solar-Powered Street Lights In Capital
Part of national move towards reducing fossil fuel use

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 29, 2013) – The first three solar powered street lights installed on Taufa'ahau Road are on a trial for three months to see whether they can help Tonga to reduce its cost of power and amount of fossil fuel for diesel generation.

The project will test the financial viability of the solar panels that may be installed throughout Tongatapu and the outer islands in the future.

Tonga Power Ltd., Tonga's sole power supplier, installed the solar panels on January 8 on the three power poles located opposite the Royal Tombs, Mala'ekula, and angled facing north for maximum exposure to the sun.

Tonga Power stated that the solar powered street light has a 40 W LED powered by the solar panel, which charges a battery during the day and automatically switches on the light at night and runs for up to 16 hours.

The solar unit can run in remote areas where mains electricity is not available, and is also an excellent solution for lighting sheds, workshop yards, car parks, access ways and anywhere that needs an extra light.

The trial is part of Tonga Power's efforts in targeting a 50 percent reduction of fossil fuel by 2015.

Tonga Power has connected meter boxes to each solar panel, which measures the amount of power feeding back into the grid over the next three months. The readings will test the cost of units versus the output to prove if the pole mounted solar panels will be financially viable, prior to installing solar panels throughout Tongatapu and outer islands.

Target

Tonga Power Ltd's Distribution Manager, Rodney Lowe, expected that the solar panels would generate 1 to 1.5kWH per day, or even up to 2kWH a day.

After five to six days meter technicians read the meters installed on the poles, which have been connected to the solar panels. We then recorded readings of 4-6kWH back into the grid, which is right on target, he said.

The project is funded by Transnet and ECOLight Ltd. of New Zealand, who specializes in the distribution of electrical products.

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