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Rarotonga solar farm

The 960kW ‘Te Mana o Te Ra’ solar farm was switched on by Cook Islands’ Prime Minister Henry Puna and New Zealand High Commissioner Joanna Kempkers.

At a ceremony held between the rows of solar panels that have been installed at Rarotonga International Airport, Prime Minister Henry Puna spoke of his Government’s commitment to renewable energy and how the solar plant contributes to the goal of having the Cook Islands 100 percent powered by renewable energy by 2020.

“Somebody once said, never fear to dream, for dreams are visions of reality,” he said. “We are here to celebrate a dream.”

Puna extended his thanks to the government of New Zealand for supporting the nation’s renewable energy aspirations by funding the installation, which he said has the potential to reduce emissions by 1050 tonnes.

The solar farm was delivered by Infratec with support from SolarCity NZ, NETcon, AECOM and Fliway International. Local firms Mike Rennie Builders and Andersons Electrical were responsible for civil works construction and DC electrical works respectively.

Speaking at the event, New Zealand High Commissioner Joanna Kempkers commended the PM for his commitments to renewables since assuming office in 2010. She also complemented Infratec and its partner companies for the quality of the build, describing it as world class and congratulating the team for delivering the project on time and on budget.

Representing Infratec and the team of contractors General Manager Peter Apperley thanked the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Government of Cook Islands for providing the opportunity to build such an important piece of infrastructure in the Cook Islands renewable energy road map.

“It has been a huge collaborative effort between New Zealand and the Cook Islands to design, procure, deliver, build and commission this solar farm. It couldn’t be done without good teamwork and the people who made up those teams.”

Now it has been commissioned the solar farm will be owned and operated by Cook Islands electricity company Te Aponga Uira. The solar farm will produce about 5% of Rarotonga's annual electricity demand. It is estimated that this will lead to a reduction of around 400,000 litres of diesel fuel imports per year.

Infratec is a subsidiary of Timaru-based NETcon Ltd and is part of the Alpine Energy group which distributes electricity to over 30,000 customers in the South Canterbury region.

NETcon is an electrical contracting firm which specialises in the installation and maintenance of aerial and underground electricity networks from 400V to 33kV. It also provides technical services to assist with the design, installation and maintenance of protection, communication and control systems for power distribution.

In concluding her address, Kempkers said, “... kia tere te karohirohi i mua i tou huarahi”. “May the shimmer of light ever dance across your pathway, or in this case, your solar panels,” she said.