FSM's Largest Solar PV Power Plant Operational in Yap
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): July 20, 2009 - Ulithi atoll - 12 July 2009
On July 8th the lights went on island-wide for the first time on Fadrai, one of the islets of Ulithi atoll in Yap. So what's so special about that, you might ask?
Well, the electricity powering these lights is coming from the sun and it is captured and stored into large batteries by the FSM's largest solar PV (photovoltaic) power plant. In the two previous weeks a mixed team of technicians from Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap had been busy installing this 28 kWp (kilowatt peak) solar plant, funded by the European Union (EU).
A total of 216 solar PV panels were installed on racks and concrete foundations, pointing towards the sun. Three large battery banks are storing the solar-energy during the day, for daytime as well as nighttime use. Inverters with a combined capacity of over 20 kW will convert the DC (Direct Current) electricity from the solar panels and batteries into 240 V / 60 Hz AC (Alternating Current), feeding it into an underground (i.e. typhoon-proof) mini-grid cable system.
The electrical power from this solar plant can be used to run not only lights, but also refrigerators & freezers, TVs, radios and DVD players, VHF and HF radios, mobile phones, photocopiers & printers, fans and computers. However, there are limitations and for instance air conditioners, water heaters and rice-cookers can not be hooked up to this solar system without eventually overloading it.
The 37 households on Fadrai will have to pay for the electricity they are getting from the solar plant through cashpower meters. This will generate income to pay for the salaries of the 2 YSPSC plant operators, regular maintenance & upkeep, as well as battery-replacement (after an estimated 7-10 years).
Not far from Fadrai, also in Ulithi atoll, another slightly smaller mini-grid solar powerplant (20 kWp) was installed on Asor islet earlier this year, providing the same electrical services to the 18 households there.
In both locations the community participated in preparing the grounds for the installation already months before. They were also actively involved during the installations, supporting the installation team with food and accommodation, and giving a helping hand on the installation site.
The two Ulithi solar powerplants in Yap were the final installations in a series of 16 solar systems that were installed over the past 8 months in FSM, funded under a 9th European Development Fund (EDF 9) programme called "Support to the Energy Sector in Five Pacific Island States" or REP-5 for short. The REP-5 Programme is executed by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and managed by a consortium lead by IT Power . The other solar installations were installed on Pingelap, Moch, Sapwaufik, Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi, Satawan, Moch, Udot and Onoun.
In total nearly 1,000 solar panels were deployed on all these islands, assisting them to move into the 21st century with a reliable and sustainable power supply.
The European Union is taking a global lead in the move towards a renewable energy future, and will continue to support introduction of these technologies in FSM in a new round of funding (EDF10), starting in January 2010.
In the long run solar energy can make FSM less dependent on imported fossil fuels. A goal worth pursuing.
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