Australian Minister, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells together with the Australian High Commissioner to Tonga, H.E. Ambassador Andrew Ford and delegates of Australian Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday visited the Ha’apai solar farm project. The on-grid project will become the first utility scale solar energy generation facility in Ha’apai.
Tonga Power staff and Governor Mo’ale Finau were pleased to welcome the Minister at Ha’apai during her visit to the solar facility, which is located at the power station in Pangai. The senator is in Tonga on an official visit to strengthen Australia’s bilateral relationships with its Pacific partner countries.
Hon. Fierravanti-Wells said, “The Government of Australia is proud to be supporting Tonga to reach its renewable energy goals and climate change targets through the Outer Islands Renewable Energy Project (OIREP).
Australia has contributed AUD$5.7 million towards the project in co-financing with the Asian Development Bank and the European Union.
TPL Major Projects Manager, Simon Wilson said, “We are very thankful for the financial support that Development Partners have provided for this benchmark project. This project will bring Ha’apai up to approximately 50% renewable electricity supply which will be a first for Tonga”.
He adds, “This is an important stepping stone towards the Government of Tonga’s goal of 50% renewable electricity generation for Tonga by 2020”.
The OIREP project includes the construction of the 550 kWh solar plant in Ha’apai, which also contains a 660 kW battery storage system. The Ha’apai solar farm is expected to be complete in November 2016. In addition, a 200 kWh solar farm in being constructed in ‘Eua and is expected to be complete in October 2016. The overall cost for the solar facilities for both islands is approximately $3 million USD dollars.
Fiji based company CBS is the lead contractor on the project, which is an alliance between Tonga Power Ltd and the Government of Tonga.
'Eua and Vava'u
The OIREP project also includes the electricity network rehabilitation in ‘Eua and Vava’u funded by the Asian Development Bank, European Union, Second Danish Cooperation Fund and the Australian Government at a cost of $5 million USD. TPL is responsible for the construction and refurbishment of the electricity network in ‘Eua up to 80 percent and up to 20 percent in Vava’u.
The OIREP project has been well underway since July in ‘Eua and around 30% of the work has already been completed. Construction of the electrical network in Vava’u is expected to commence in May 2017.
Tonga Power Limited CEO said, “The OIREP project is yet another example of Tonga Power’s ability to work in close collaboration with Government, the industry and our Development Partners to deliver safe, reliable and more affordable electricity to the outer Islands.
Tonga Power also provides equal employment opportunity for both women and men in the workforce and has successfully trained and employed four female staff in Ha’apai and three in ‘Eua to join the OIREP network rehabilitation workforce in support of the Gender Action Plan.
Tonga Power’s CEO, Robert Matthews said, “TPL remains committed to a balanced approach to gender equality as we continue to engage the very best people for the job regardless of their gender”.
Mr Matthew adds, “I sincerely thank all our Development Partners including Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, H.E. Ambassador Andrew Ford and the people of Australia for their continued support”.