Enabling a better learning environment through solar power

29 January 2013 | Article

In the second biggest secondary school in Tuvalu, IUCN helped provide a better learning environment for 500 students and teachers by enabling continuous power supply through solar.

BACKGROUND
Tuvalu is a small island nation consisting of nine coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. With a population of about 11,000 people, Tuvalu relies heavily on imported diesel fuel, mainly for power generation and transport. Over the years, Tuvalu has been focusing its efforts on promoting renewable power generation and energy efficiency programmes to reduce its fuel imports. In 2008 the Government commissioned a 10-year Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Master Plan targeting 100% power generation from renewable energy sources.

SITUATION
Tuvalu estimates it will cost about $20 million to generate all its electricity by using renewables. It began the process in 2009 by installing a $410,000 (a 40kW grid connected PV) solar system on the roof of the main soccer stadium in the capital, Funafuti. The government also worked with IUCN to install another grid connected PV solar system (including solar street lights) on its largest island, Vaitupu. It has also embarked on a wind assessment programme to determine its potential for wind energy.

THE PROJECT
IUCN's project in Tuvalu involved the installation of a 46kW Grid connected Solar PV System and solar street lights.

  • The Solar PV system

The 46kW Grid connected Solar PV System was installed at Motufoua Secondary School compound on Vaitupu Island. The school is the second biggest secondary school in Tuvalu with a roll of around 500 students. There is a local diesel powered electricity grid network on Vaitupu to which the school is connected. The major objective in locating the solar PV system at the school was to enable continuous power supply to the school and also to ease the power load on the main diesel grid system. Installation of the solar PV system was completed in 2010 and is now fully operational; regulated and maintained by the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation.

  • Solar Streetlights

The provision of solar streetlights at the school was considered critical, particularly for safety reasons. 10 solar streetlights were installed around the school compound in 2011.

OBJECTIVES
To reduce the country's dependence on diesel consumption and operational costs to the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation.

IMPACTS

  • The school now has access to continuous power supply thus improving the learning environment. Prior to this power supply was limited to 18 hours per day.
  • With the added power supply, the school is now able to use modern teaching tools such as audio-visual equipment to enhance learning.
  • Safety and security at night improved through the provision of outdoor street lights.
  • The solar PV system reduces the use of the diesel generator thus savings on diesel fuels.
  • In its first year of operation the solar PV system saved about 120 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
  • The solar PV system is quite complex particularly with the huge battery bank and the myriad control systems. This has provided an opportunity for the technicians and engineers of the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation to acquire new technical skills.

DURATION
2008 – 2011

DONORS

  • Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS), Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Austrian Development Cooperation