Kiwi company delivers sustainable power for remote Cook Islands
19 July 2019
New Zealand sustainable energy company Infratec has successfully completed a NZ$16 million Asian Development Bank funded project to deliver reliable renewable energy to four islands in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands.
Over the past two years, Infratec has designed and delivered solar/battery mini grids and new underground network distribution systems on the Islands of Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro. In June, Infratec joined the Cook Island's Prime Minister, Henry Puna, and other delegates in celebrating the official inauguration of the solar-mini grid on Mauke Island.
Infratec Chief Executive Greg Visser says the four solar plants are now providing clean, reliable and affordable energy to almost 1,500 people - or about 9% of the Cook Islands' population. The solar panels (backed up by a battery energy storage system) will meet about 95% of the energy supply needs of the four islands, which were previously supplied solely by diesel generators.
"That means annual savings of about 360,000 litres of diesel and 960 tonnes of CO2 emissions. It also means those communities will have reliable and sustainable 24-hour electricity. And because we've used robust materials such as aluminium and stainless steel, there's much greater chance that power will stay on in cyclones and other extreme weather events or emergencies, to maintain essential services such as hospitals, water facilities and emergency shelters."
Greg Visser says the project was about much more than developing the renewable energy resources of the Southern Group Islands, but to do so while developing the islands' human resources.
Infratec employed 40 local people - including more than 10 women - throughout the project and sought to provide all of the local workers with knowledge and skills that would serve them and their communities after the project finished.
They also supported local community projects and worked with the Cook Islands Red Cross to provide first aid kits and training to local people, including island paramedics and nurses, to increase their capacity to provide early help in emergencies.
"While I'm proud to say we delivered the project very successfully, I'm just as proud of what we've achieved for the local people and their long-term wellbeing." Greg Visser said
"It's my belief that the project has developed two critical renewable resources for the Southern Group - the solar and the people."