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Kiwi energy company, Infratec, shines with another solar energy project in Tonga

17 April 2020

New Zealand renewable energy company Infratec and sister-company NETcon have signed another multi-million dollar contract to deliver solar projects in Tonga, helping the island nation towards its bold goal of 70% renewable energy by 2030.

The JV partners will deliver on-grid solar power plants and battery storage systems on the islands of ‘Eua and Vava’u — significantly increasing access to renewable energy on the islands and reducing reliance of current diesel generation.

The NZ$7.5 million contract comes on the heels of a NZ$15 million contract for the JV partners to deliver solar power/battery storage power plants and distribution systems on five outer islands (O’ua, Tungua, Kotu, Mo’unga’one and Niuafo’ou), which was announced just weeks ago.

Both projects are part of the Government of Tonga’s Renewable Energy Project, which has the goal of 50% renewable energy by the end of this year and 70% renewable energy by 2030.

Infratec Chief Executive Greg Visser said the projects will be significant infrastructure developments for Tonga and the wider Pacific.

“On ‘Eua and Vava’u, we will be designing and delivering the infrastructure to more than double the solar power currently on the islands. For ‘Eua, this translates to 28% of their energy needs, and 7% for Vava’u.

“On a technical level, these systems include the battery needed to deliver solar day and night, and for the first time run the islands off-diesel for periods of time.”

The goal of the Tonga Renewable Energy Project (TREP) is to increase access to safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy. It will reduce Tonga’s vulnerability to increasing oil prices, reduce its carbon emissions, improve its resilience to climate change, and provide secure, sustainable and clean electricity for homes and businesses.

“The decreased energy costs from these projects will also have a very direct impact on people’s lives — reducing the cost of doing business, creating new business opportunities, and freeing up household income for other needs such as education.”

‘Eua and Vava’u have a combined population of around 19,000 people, with much of their income generated from tourism, agriculture and construction industries, with much of the tourism related to the whale watching season.

“To put these islands in perspective, that’s more than the population of Queenstown.

“We will be delivering the project in a way that brings as much benefit as possible to local people and communities — including employing local community liaison staff, providing employment and training for local people in the construction phase (with a target of at least 20% women), training Tonga Power Limited staff for ongoing maintenance, and delivering an HIV/Aids prevention programme on each of the islands.”

The project will get underway immediately, for completion mid 2021 assuming no longer term Covid-19 restrictions. With Covid-19 restrictions in place, Infratec will commence initial site works (site clearing and survey) using local partners, while Infratec engineers kick off the design working remotely in New Zealand.

The project is administered by Tonga Power Limited and the Asian Development Bank and funded by the Green Climate Fund, Asian Development Bank, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Tongan Government.

“We’d like to acknowledge all of our partners — great projects like this are borne out of great leadership — and we’re looking forward to working together to deliver great outcomes for the people of Tonga and the planet.”