Tokelau Island is world’s first solar-powered nation

Living in America, it may feel like it’s nearly impossible to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, but even our car-obsessed society doesn’t have it as bad as island-dwellers.

The island nations of the South Pacific are among some of the most petroleum-dependent countries in the world. That’s because islands don’t have massive oil reserves or coal deposits. In order to generate electricity, South Pacific nations must import huge amounts of fuel to power diesel generators.

Now, one island nation has said enough is enough. The South Pacific nation of Tokelau is aiming to ditch its diesel dependency and transform itself into the world’s first solar-powered country. Using 4,032 solar panels and 1,344 batteries, the island nation will generate 150% of its own current electricity demand.

As EarthTechling reported late last year, solar energy already powers a few houses and buildings on the three atolls of Tokelau. But most of the island nation still relies on fossil fuel, with each atoll needing up to 200 liters a day. 

Now, thanks to help from Powersmart Solar and the New Zealand government, Tokelau expects to switch off its generators and rely almost entirely on renewable solar energy by the end of 2012.

During emergency periods and times of prolonged cloud cover, Tokelau’s solar generators will run on another indigenous resource: coconut oil. Both fuels will simultaneously recharge the battery bank storing up power for use during the night.  

According to a feasibility study, 200 coconuts are needed to make the 20 to 30 liters of fuel each atoll requires. Once the switch is complete, the only diesel needed on the island will power its tiny fleet of three automobiles. Maybe someday those will be solar-powered as well!

Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling