Each atoll has an electricity grid, to which all households are connected. Previously, power was typically only provided during peak demand periods and for between 15–18 hours a day, with 24 hours of electricity reserved for special occasions. With solar power installed, electricity will be available for 24 hours every day. Tokelau’s electricity system has undergone upgrades to improve the reliability of service and increase supply efficiency.
The discontinued diesel generators in Tokelau previously burned approximately 200 litres of fuel daily, and as the atolls are surrounded by reefs with no ports or harbours, access was both difficult and expensive. Fuel cargo was offloaded out to sea and ferried to the shore in smaller boats.
Solar energy will not only eliminate the pollution created by the diesel generators, but will help to reduce the risk of the surrounding waters being polluted by the petrol and kerosene that was shipped in drums to the island, or the diesel that was transferred to the islands from tanks on the M.V. Tokelau, the islands’ ferry. Noise levels on the islands will be significantly reduced.
SMA says that rainfall on the atolls is heavy but irregular, so the diesel generators will still be maintained for the purpose of providing electricity during the rare prolonged periods of inclement weather. Outside of these times, the generators will be run at a minimum level in order to maintain the parts and keep the batteries at a high state of charge.
PowerSmart developed weather-proof touch screens for each system so that their performance can be observed locally. Remote monitoring is also possible via the Internet through the use of SMA Sunny Webboxes and SMA Sunny Portal software.