Minister of Infrastructure Crossley Tatui told the News of the Week Radio programme two weeks ago that the current solar farm capacity is insufficient to cater for the current and growing energy demands on the island. He said that a team from New Zealand was on the island recently to conduct a feasibility study.
In the government’s ten-year Energy Strategic Roadmap, a target of 80 percent renewable energy by 2025 was set and with two years to go, it sees Niue is struggling to meet this target with the admission by the Minister of Infrastructure that the current solar farms capacity is not enough.
Minister Tatui was responding to questions about the frequent power outages and whether the current infrastructure is able to handle the demand.
He said “Not with the current solar farm capacity. Last month we had a team from NZ who came up to carry out a feasibility study of producing more space for solar farms in other parts of the country as a way forward to help out with the power supply for the people and we hope that that project will be fast-tracked,” said Minister Tatui.
Over the years since the solar power system was installed and merged with the diesel-fueled generators, power outages have become more frequent due to an interface problem when switching from solar to diesel generators.
“At the moment, things are not running according to plan. There are a lot of set back, there’s a computer programme Power smart that we’re working on to improve how we can connect solar power to the national grid, but that programme has not functioned well as expected,” explained the minister.
Minister Tatui said that the government is working on an agreement with the company PowerSmart to ensure these computer programme issues are resolved before the commissioning of the new Power Station, sometime this year.
“We are working on the agreement with Power smart we hope to tidy up these things first and foremost so that once the new powerhouse is commissioned we are able to see some improvement in future”.
The construction of the new power station is one of the projects supported by the Australian government as part of their broader efforts to reduce climate change and limit greenhouse gas emissions.
In late 2020, government officials told BCN News that solar power was meeting forty percent of the island’s energy demand but regularly reverts to diesel generators when demand is greater than the supply.
On Saturday, the residents of upper Alofi South around Huihui and Fonuakula went without power from 7am to late afternoon as the NPC team work on the transformers around Huihui.
These areas of Alofi South have seen the most development in recent years, with large buildings constructed such as the new government building opened in 2008, the new extension to the Hanan International Airport soon after, the Swansons Shopping Complex opened in 2018 and the new National Disaster Management and Police Station opened three years ago.
Also located at Fonuakula is the base for the Chinese workers, what used to be the youth centre, is now being converted to house an estimated 50 workers who will be working on the China Railway Roadway Project, resealing the roads from Hikutavake to Hakupu and some internal roads within Alofi. The units are near completion and will be fully air-conditioned.
The Crown land settlement of Huihui has seen several new homes built in the past ten years and still more homes are being built in addition to the government’s plans to build the new Justice and Court Building in the same area of Fonuakula and Huihui.
These are just some of the new developments in this part of Alofi South. There are many more new homes and businesses being built in other parts of Alofi and in the outer villages, creating higher demand for the current power and water infrastructure.