Tonga’s Largest Solar Power Facility Commences Operations

Matatoa Solar Farm - Tonga

Image : Tonga Power Ltd

Tonga’s King Tupou VI officially commissioned Matatoa Solar Farm last week, another step towards the Kingdom achieving its renewable energy goal.

Consisting of 7,440 solar panels, the 2-megawatt facility is expected to generate more than 2.8 million killowatt hours of electricity during its first year of operation. The power station will save an estimated 680, 000 litres of diesel in the first 12 months, cutting emissions and the cost of generating electricity.

Tonga has set a goal of 50% renewable energy generation by 2020.

“The solar plant alone is expected to add another 5% towards the nation’s renewable energy target”, said Minister for Public Enterprises and MEIDECC, Hon. Poasi Tei.

The nation has relied heavily on the international community in the process of weaning itself off expensive and polluting diesel-based power generation, and the Matatoa Solar Farm project received support from China.

Minister Tei said the Government of China and Tonga Power Ltd are also discussing a 2 megawatt wind power project and the Government of Japan has provided funding for a 1.3 MW wind facility.

Australia has also played a role in helping Tonga towards its renewables goals, pitching in for the 550kW Ha Masani Solar Facility on Ha’apai, which also features 660 kWh of battery storage. Ha’apai was the first island in Tonga to reach 50% renewable energy.

More recently, Australia assisted with the Huelo ‘o e Funga Fonua solar facility on the island of ‘Eua. The 200kW solar power station will generate around 19% of ‘Eua’s electricity requirements. Huelo ‘o e Funga Fonua is part of the Outer Islands Renewable Energy Project (OIREP), a program with the goal of improving the quality, standard and cost of electricity delivered to residents of the outer islands of the Kingdom.

Other large solar facilities in Tonga include Maama Mai (1MW), Mata ‘o e La’a (1MW) and La’a Lahi (430kW).

Another important solar + storage project recently completed was an installation at Prince Wellington Ngu Hospital in Vava’u. While a comparatively small system (20kW PV + 96kWh battery storage), the hospital’s energy needs are modest and it will supply the equivalent of 43% of the facility’s electricity requirements.

Solar power also plays a special symbolic role in Pacific island nations such as Tonga, which are at the frontlines of the impacts of climate change. Tonga is already experiencing a decrease in rainfall during the wet season, rising temperatures and damage caused by erosion caused by rising sea levels.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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