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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the here-comes-the-sun dept.

Earth 252

First time accepted submitter zonky writes "Tokelau has become the first country in the world to go 100% solar power generation, moving away from their entirely diesel power supply, which formerly supplied the energy needs of the 1400 residents of their small south pacific Island Nation. From the article: 'All three atolls in the South Pacific dependency, a New Zealand territory, will have their own solar power system by the end of October, despite a slight delay switching on the first system.'"

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252 comments

Hawii (5, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864985)

It is amazing that the USA is NOT investing more into getting Hawaii moved onto AE for energy and tesla is not pushing their car there.
The reason why is because right now, nearly ALL of Hawaii's energy is from oil.
Tesla could jump the production line to an easy 30K or even 40K for the model S and would still sell 100% of those cars on Hawaii.
Oddly, Hawaii is setting up free electrical charging posts.

Re:Hawii (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864997)

The cheapest Tesla car starts at ~$50k, not really within reach of the average citizen.

Re:Hawii (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865015)

The cheapest Tesla car starts at ~$50k, not really within reach of the average citizen.

Blacks cannot afford it, making it a racist car.

Re:Hawii (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865087)

Don't be so sure:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzspsovNvII

Besides, they can just steal one. Enforcing the law is racist too!

Re:Hawii (1)

Firehed (942385) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865065)

And how do Hawaii's income levels compare with the national average? I'm guessing it's on the higher side.

Re:Hawii (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865091)

I doubt that's true after you factor the fact that virtually everything has to be shipped in. So, they may make more money nominally, but I doubt it goes as far as you expect.

Re:Hawii (3, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865171)

I doubt that's true after you factor the fact that virtually everything has to be shipped in. So, they may make more money nominally, but I doubt it goes as far as you expect.

Almost everything I buy in the continental US is shipped/flown in, as well, from sardines to salmon, mandarins to garlic, as well as small appliances and almost everything electronic (including wire), and of course cars.

It seems to me that the only thing I routinely spend my money on that is produced domestically is gasoline (which may or may not be made from domestic crude), warm-blooded meat, and [some] vegetables.

Everything else comes over on a boat or a plane.

Hawaii may not be as relatively bad off as you implicitly suggest.

Re:Hawii (4, Informative)

cvtan (752695) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866251)

Lots of low-income people in Hawaii. Schools are cash starved. Go to the library in Mountain View and you will find computers that should be in a museum. Watching tourists spend money in Honolulu gives a false impression. People I know with solar power do it for green "feel-good" reasons, not to save money. Many wind turbines on the southern point of the Big Island stand idle and rusting. The geothermal energy plant suffers reliability problems, has not expanded much and is required by contract to sell electricity at the same rate as the oil-fired generated plants.

Re:Hawii (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865139)

The price of living on Hawaii is NOT for the average citizen. Living there is like living in San Fran or even Vail. Lots of money floats around there.

Re:Hawii (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865013)

Yeah, you wonder why HI hasn't invested more heavily in solar and wind. There are spots on the islands where the wind is just about always going strong. No shortage of sun on the leeward side of any Hawaiian island. And oil makes electricity there very expensive. So if solar and wind are even vaguely close to cost effective, why hasn't Hawaii invested heavily?

Re:Hawii (2)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865167)

Because the very expensive oil is still cheaper than the 'cost effective' solar and wind?

Just because you use the words 'very expensive' and 'cost effective' doesn't make it so.

Re:Hawii (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865941)

One of Hawaii's major economic activities is tourism. I imagine they are very concerned about anything which might alter their postcard-perfect natural landscape. When the tourist trade is responsible for nearly a fourth of the state GDP, much caution is exercised in anything which might impact it.

Re:Hawii (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866201)

It might be because I'm a techie, but I don't have any problems with tastefully done solar panels, and it's my understanding that solar thermal for hot water is a requirement for new housing there anyways.

Re:Hawii (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865987)

It's trying, but there's a number of roadblocks, mostly regulatory. There's a big paperwork backlog - 3/4ths of the permit applications in Honolulu are for rooftop solar installs. Also, it was just recently that they overturned the law banning more than 15% of the grid's capacity to be from home rooftops without getting an explicit exception (it's now 25%). Before that, you had to do a long interconnect impact study for each install. Getting paid for sending power back into the grid is fairly new itself, less than a year old. On the commercial side, the utilities are building most of their new capacity as renewables, but they don't want to toss away their investment on older generation hardware. So overall it's just moving at a snail's pace.

Re:Hawii (2)

Spoke (6112) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865639)

I just ran across an article discussing this very issue. It turns out that the price of solar in Hawaii is already financially viable without any extra incentives, and with incentives many areas are hitting the current maximum of 15% solar per interconnection.

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2012/08/hawaii-drives-past-solar-power-cost-barrier-surprised-by-additional-roadblocks [renewableenergyworld.com]

That post and the associated report covers the issues of increasing solar in Hawaii better than I can.

Re:Hawii (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866219)

I don't know about 15%, but I can certainly understand wanting to be cautious - their electricity might be mostly oil, but that doesn't mean those generators can scale up/down on a dime - more than x% might cause problems with the grid.

Now, I'd think that 20% would be no problem(due to average power increase during the day), but somebody higher up mentioned that the rule was recently amended to 25%. I haven't done any studies specifically for Hawaii.

Re:Hawii (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865785)

It is amazing that the USA is NOT investing more into getting Hawaii moved onto AE for energy

Because it's run by oil barons. If they start with green energy over there, people might start demanding it over here....

Re:Hawii (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40866249)

Exactly! Just like the coal barons of the 19th century never allowed oil to ... oh wait. Maybe all we need is an energy-dense, easily available, flexible and cheap energy source... of which solar is none.

Night? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40864987)

What do they do then?

Re:Night? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40864999)

There's this recent invention called battery... you might have heard of it.

Re:Night? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865867)

Yeah, they have batteries and still only get electricity 15-18 hours a day, and then probably only for something small like a light bulb or a tiny TV. It's not really applicable to industrial countries, much less in the non-tropical areas with poor insolation.

The simulations showed for example, that in order to provide 100% regenerative energy in Germany, approximately 80TWh of storage capacity is required. That's 1MWh per person. A Redox-Vanadium battery of this capacity is big as a ship container, good for 3000-5000 reload cycles and costs around 2 million dollars. It stores amount of electricity that costs 40-50 euros on the el. market.

Re:Night? (2)

Rei (128717) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866019)

Vanadium redox cells are typically cited as over 10000 cycles. I don't know what simulations you refer to, but given that the average US household uses 6000kWh/year, that's an average of 0.7kW, and assuming an average of 3 people per household would mean that 1MWh per person (3 MWh per household) would be enough to run it for 180 days. Which sounds utterly absurd, especially once you start building more regional interconnects (heck, they're already talking about adding even *Iceland* to the European grid). Lastly, simulating a "100% scenario" is pointless. What's so wrong with a 90% or a 95% scenario (aka, using existing fossil plants if there's some low-probability shortfall event) if it makes the problem much easier to handle? Lastly, existing hydro plants in most regions can be uprated and used as battery buffers, holding months worth of power in their reservoir behind them. Pumped hydro's added cost per kWh sold is usually cited in the $0.01-$0.02/kWh range. It's cheap enough that it's starting to be used extensively in some places (such as China), not to support renewables, but simply to avoid having to build new power plants to meet daytime demand.

It should be noted that even PbA cells are a viable option in some locations (I believe there's a huge bank up in Alaska). It all depends on the scenario.

Re:Night? (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866199)

A huge amount of electricity is not used directly by a house. Things like water and waste utilities etc bump it up pretty fast. Then there is industrial electricity use. The claim that such and such a solar panel/battery whatever "will power 10000 households" is pretty useless when we are talking about real usage and demand patterns.

However 1MWh does seem well over the top. Even if we all needed a few tons of Aluminum from the local smelter a year.

Pumped hydro is rather expensive (billions for something that gives you only a few GW for a few hours!) and is only good in a few areas. It does not even get close to solving the energy storage problem. Cost per kWh is not informative since you still have to pay to generate it in the first place.

Even with all of this the biggest problem with batteries other than cost, is lifetime and reliability. Billions for pumped storage works because it will still be working in 20 years. Not so with batteries, at least yet. The liquid metal battery has some promise here.

Re:Night? (1)

DemoLiter3 (704469) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866245)

You're forgetting some important things:

1. the household electricity consumption is only a minor part, the most is consumed by the industry, and you need to provide storage capacity for them as well.

2. The regenerative power like wind and solar is subject for a major saisonal fluctuations. Which means, the storage needs to be able to load all the energy during one season with high production and keep it for months so you can use it in a season with low production.

3. Currently, Germany is in a "20% scenario". We already have the highest electricity prices in the world (for a major country) ~26 âct/kWh and the import/export saldo in the area of 15% of total production. The electricity prices will likely increase by another 3-4 cents next year and so far there's no end to the price hike in sight.

In Germany, the electricity production/use is ~7500kWh per capita, so 1MWh storage is sufficient for just about 50 days. Considering that the assured production of wind power is below 1% (that is, 200MW in the entire country with over 25GW wind turbines) of installed capacity at 99% of assured supply (that would mean 3.5 days of blackout per year on average, in reality we have only ~15min, or 99.997% assured supply here), it's not that astonishing at all.

It helps... (3, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865033)

that they are a pacific island with a population of 1400.

Not that far from saying something like Sealand is the first nation to adopt bitcoin as a national currency, which I am sure they would if they thought they could profit off it.

Re:It helps... (3, Insightful)

tinkerton (199273) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865365)

It's like saying Tokelau is the first village to go solar but then it wouldn't be news.

Re:It helps... (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866049)

Besides, while they may be the first to be essentially 100% solar, they're far from the first to go essentially 100% renewable. Here in Iceland we're essentially 100% geo and hydro for our electricity. Yeah, we're only 320,000 people, but we produce 2/3rds as much power as Ireland (which has 15 times our population). A huge amount of electricity per-capita goes to industry (it's so cheap, electricity-intensive industries like aluminum come here). Of the three aluminum smelters in the country, even the smallest uses more power than all the homes and businesses combined. And we're only at something like 20% of our hydro capacity, 25% of our known conventional geo capacity (plus, geo's not been nearly well enough explored, this doesn't count enhanced geothermal, it doesn't count low-temperature geothermal, and it doesn't count geothermal straight from lava**), the largest wind turbine in this super-windy country is only 30kW, and wave and tidal (there are big waves and tides here) are completely untapped.

Note that electricity isn't the only form of energy that people use. Like I'm sure is the case with Tokelau, we import almost all of our fuel (although there's some new biofuels plants going online which should start to change that here). Also, most of our primary energy is heat. Geothermal currently makes up only a quarter of our electricity production, but it's 2/3rds of our primary energy production (most of it being low temperature geo which we've done nothing to produce electricity from - the water comes out of the wells at usually 100-140C and gets blended with cold water down to the 80C distribution temperature - power is so cheap and abundant here that nobody can justify the cost to generate power from low temperature geo). Fossil fuels (mainly oil) make up about 20% of our primary energy consumption.

Having such a high percent of our primary energy production as heat, not transportation fuels or electricity, certainly is unusual, but then again, we love us some hot water and use it aplenty ;) Also, the geothermal heat displaces electric and/or oil/natural gas room and water heating in homes and businesses.

---

** It was actually discovered by accident that we can produce geo straight from lava when a geo well at the Krafla volcanic system accidentally drilled into the lava dome. The lava backed up the well a couple dozen meters and then stopped. At first considering the well a loss, they decided to try to turn it into a production well, and it turned out that it actually works. ;)

Re:It helps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40866157)

What ever happened to the Hydrogen economy of Iceland?
I'm sure it's got something to do with the banking collapse, but talk about a way of kicking globalisation into the weeds.
Kick starting your own exclusive export market with cheap aluminium manufactured hydrogen powered vehicles & fuel export.

Soon to become 100% hydro (3, Interesting)

Sussurros (2457406) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865059)

Sadly Tokelau will be the first nation to go under the waves when the waters rise. I've met a few Tokelauans and they are uniformly terrific people. Their culture will pretty much vanish when migrate to New Zealand.and their kids become Kiwis (New Zelanders - the fruit is named after the people who are named after the bird).

Re:Soon to become 100% hydro (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865165)

the fruit is named after the people who are named after the bird.

I find that startling considering how much more the fruit looks like the bird than it does the people.

Re:Soon to become 100% hydro (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865333)

the fruit is named after the people who are named after the bird.

I find that startling considering how much more the fruit looks like the bird than it does the people.

Maybe you will find it even more startling to learn that kiwi fruit doesn't even come from New Zealand. They originated in China.

Re:Soon to become 100% hydro (0, Offtopic)

Sussurros (2457406) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865669)

When I was last in New Zealand they used to call the Polynesian transvestites there "Kiwifruit" on the basis that they were brown and hairy and soft in the middle.

Re:Soon to become 100% hydro (0)

samoanbiscuit (1273176) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865845)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I hope they don't call them that to their faces! A scorned polynesian transvestite can put an average man in the hospital. Just because you like wearing dresses doesn't mean you get out of playing rugby and boxing when in school...

Re:Soon to become 100% hydro (0)

Sussurros (2457406) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865997)

Indeed, about six years ago one beautiful Tongan fakaleiti very famously knocked out cold a visiting sailor who reacted badly when he discovered that the local beauty had a bit of beast hidden away.

Re:Soon to become 100% hydro (0)

samoanbiscuit (1273176) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866065)

A good rule of thumb is that if the polynesian beauty you're wooing is taller than average, and acting sluttier than normal (then again, tourists wouldn't know would they?), then it's most definitely a man under that getup... Fun Fact: In Samoa and Tonga, most prostitutes are not female.

Re:Soon to become 100% hydro (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865873)

Sadly Tokelau will be the first nation to go under the waves when the waters rise. I've met a few Tokelauans and they are uniformly terrific people. Their culture will pretty much vanish when migrate to New Zealand.and their kids become Kiwis (New Zelanders - the fruit is named after the people who are named after the bird).

Not all bad. Just imagine being able to go fishing in your living room!

AMAZING (-1, Redundant)

kyrio (1091003) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865061)

HOLY CRAP A COUNTRY OF 1400 PEOPLE SWITCHED COMPLETELY TO SOLAR POWER!!!!!!!!!!!!111one!11!!!!

Is this supposed to be news? This is like putting up an article because the high-rise apartment building down the street went 100% solar.

Re:AMAZING (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865103)

Idiot. There really isn't anything more to say about this kind of reaction.

Re:AMAZING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865543)

If a high-rise apartment building went 100% solar and completely independent from the electric grid that would be news worthy.

Country? (0)

mister2au (1707664) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865063)

Only in the loosest sense of the work is this a country !

Even "Island Nation" is a bit of stretch

Falls in the same category as Guam and American Somoa so it understandable - but it also falls in the same category as Falkland Islands which is a better comparison when pondering if this a country, nation or just an dependant island territory.

Re:Country? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865381)

Falls in the same category as Guam and American Somoa so it understandable

Actually it falls in the same category as American Somoa, but not Guam. Residents of Guam are US citizens. Residents of American Somoa are not.

Jelousy (-1, Troll)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865635)

You're just jealous that your country isn't the first to move to 100% solar an making up a sad excuse. If they had 30% of the worlds oil reserve and stopped exporting because they wanted to promote solar power, it wouln't take more than three minutes for the USA to come up with an excuse to declare war on them, as a country.

Re:Jelousy (2)

mister2au (1707664) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865917)

What does that have to do with being a country of not?

Curiously, I am a New Zealander and this island is New Zealand territory with the New Zealand mainland funding the entire project and being constructed by New Zealand companies.

So, as a matter of fact, it is MY country ...

BTW - nice troll on the anti-USA war/oil thing ... a nice old standard ... i rate 3/10 for effort

Cost (4, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865073)

Well PV actually is quite cost effective against the carbon alternatives in this case. Not only is the country small making this project quite easy, but it's in the middle of nowhere so shipping costs for carbon based energy sources were equal to the cost of energy itself. One article mentioned that they were spending $800000 on shipping $1m worth of diesel every year.

I can see how solar PV could pay for itself quite quickly in this case.

Re:Cost (-1)

solidraven (1633185) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865199)

Cost effective is questionable. Solar panels do require a lot of maintenance if you want good performance. Not to mention the inverters tend to break quite often. And "carbon alternatives" is a term I really wouldn't use for solar panels. Look up how much energy is used to produce one square centimetre of a solar panel.
Anyway, I see a few problems with this. They'll depend on batteries during the night. If somebody gets it in his mind to use very large loads during the night the batteries will deplete and the power will fail. On the other hand on a sunny day there will be a lot of excess capacity on the grid causing all sorts of problems as well. This is why solar panels are useless as primary source of power, they're horrible to do demand-load balancing with.

Re:Cost (4, Informative)

hankwang (413283) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865285)

"Look up how much energy is used to produce one square centimetre of a solar panel."

This argument gets really old. Maybe you can provide that number yourself, with a reference. The 1st time I looked it up (ca 2003), energy parity was reached in 1-2 years depending on the local insolation.

Re:Cost (2)

Rei (128717) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866061)

For non-silicon based, it's often under 6 months. And actually solar is usually awfully nice as far as renewable impacts on the grid go, as it roughly tracks people's power consumption demands (several times more power used in the day than at night, more power used on hot, sunny days, etc). And with oil power and those sort of shipping costs, they must have been paying many times the US average for electricity. Solar and batteries should be a no-brainer in terms of payoff time.

Re:Cost (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865325)

Well, exactly the same "power will fail" scenario will happen if someone uses all the diesel before the supply ship arrives, or the generator fails or...
Redundancy is a good thing in any critical infrastructure.
On the other hand, on-going cash-flow requirements for fossil fuel are dealt with quite nicely by doing this.

Re:Cost (0)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865429)

And after 10 years, when it's still going strong and there have been no such problems foretold by you, where do we send the "you are a worthless lying fucktard" card to?

"A lot of maintenance" (5, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865431)

I think last year I had to hose off some bird poop once. And nobody I know has had an inverter fail. I would just mod you down, but I'd like to call attention to the fact that solidraven is full of bird poop.

Re:Cost (5, Informative)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865749)

Sorry but that's a load of crap. Solar panels don't require any maintenance unless you live in a very dirty environment and even cheap inverters will still outlive the return on investment duration. If your inverter breaks more often then once every 5 years then you need to seriously question about what brands you buy.

Also you've clearly never lived on a small island in the pacific have you? I have. The expectation was quite simple. At 10pm the power went out. If we were lucky there would be blackouts at dinner time too. This isn't some high tech civilisation who cry bloody murder when their broadband connection goes down.

Also cost effective is not questionable, not in the slightest. The case has been made. The plant cost $7.5m the annual expenditure on diesel is $1.8m. It would be paid off within 4 years without any kind of subsidy or assistance, except in this case the NZ government is providing the money. The country has just managed to pocket $1.8m / year which is 2/3rds of their national budget. That sounds like cost effective to me.

Re:Cost (1)

rndmtim (664101) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866123)

Spoken like you superficially know what you're talking about.

I've got solar panels with batteries. Modern inverters can support autostarting generators. However, since the batteries are the primary power source, I can now run a generator at its best set point - say 95% of nominal rating - instead of running the generator for hours at 30% load just to keep one or two things running. The only time I'll really need the generator is when I have a seasonal shortfall, say in Dec and its shoulder months when the days are shorter (otherwise I'd have to size for too much power in June). However, this country is near the equator, so that effect is nearly non-existent. It's also in the Pacific. They'll probably barely need a generator. If anyone decides to use a large load at night they can run the generator then (sudden interest in night welding?). The diesel consumed will be a tiny percentage of what it would have been even in that scenario.

In fact, in most off-grid locations solar is a tremendous cost savings over using generators alone, even in situations where a generator is required for regulatory reasons... I'm working on this now for antenna setups with a 900MHz last mile internet company in mountains in upstate NY. You'll note this isn't Florida... a lot of people ask about snow. Solar panels actually get hot through snow (about 10-20C warmer than ambient) - snow isn't a perfect block of solar energy and since panels are usually angled at latitude degrees (say 44 where I am at 44N) the snow tends to slide off. No idea what other maintenance you could think you were talking about unless the panels are flat mounted (this is done in urban areas, and involves hosing off dirt... mostly from air pollution... from dirtier forms of energy.)

As noted by others, current tech EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) is now down to as little as two years, and further tech advances could move this even shorter... panels are warranteed for 20 years, and may go considerably longer.

Excess power eh?... How is that supposed to happen exactly? Someone who couldn't do math in sizing? Reflections from snow? Increase in conductivity because it's so cold? Things things lead to voltage and current higher than original rating. I doubt any of this is the case there.

Currently replacing an inverter in my power plant that has been in service since 1972. Also, that was before modern power electronics. Shitty inverters you buy for your car have shitty components.

Rising Sea Levels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865083)

Hang on a second!

Why are they doing something that wont pay off for the long term, when in the long term they're gonna be innundated or sink. Either way, AGW will claim the land?

Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865093)

Except Tokelau is not a country.

Oops.

Great fact checking, editors.

Wow! (0)

BlueStrat (756137) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865097)

A whole 1400 people?

On a tropical island with way more sunshine than many more temperate areas?

See: Log, falling off of.

Seriously, I understand that it's a first. It's a step forward for possibly more similar places to switch. But let's be real here, supplying just 1400 people on a tropical island isn't exactly breaking any major technical barriers or pushing the envelope of scalability.

The tech to accomplish what they did has been around for at least a couple of decades, and likely became affordable/economical at least ten years ago or more at that small a scale and under those near-perfect conditions for a solar power installation. They'll still need some emergency diesel generators however for the inevitable hurricane/typhoon damage/outages.

Again, I think it's an admirable accomplishment and I salute them for it. It's a decision that makes sense all around for them and their limited needs, considering their abundance of sunshine resulting from location, and it's a "first" that will go into the history books.

Tropical flowers of all kinds smell better without the odor of diesel floating on the gentle tropical breeze. ;-)

Strat

Re:Wow! (0)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865141)

Yeah, and some idiot shooting a nobody Viscount and his Wife in Serbia, started World War One. From small things, world changing events unfold. Who knows, being the first might provide them with some special status in the future, or help make something else possible because we learned from their example.

Re:Wow! (2)

BlueStrat (756137) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865313)

Yeah, and some idiot shooting a nobody Viscount and his Wife in Serbia, started World War One. From small things, world changing events unfold. Who knows, being the first might provide them with some special status in the future, or help make something else possible because we learned from their example.

Every activity and accomplishment is a learning experience. I hope there *is* something the world can gain from this. That's not sarcasm.

I'm simply pointing out the obvious, that although a first and a possible inspiration and benefit to others, it's no leap-ahead in engineering or scaling.

I know that we've had a history of disagreements on a number of topics on /. in the past and almost certainly will again, but allow me to agree with you when there is common ground. I'm not unreasonable, even though we have differing views.

I'm not against solar or alternative energy in the broad sense at all. There is an appropriate tool for every job, and here solar may well be it. I just object on principle when every every unique energy need is made an identical nail for the same supply source/method/policy hammer. It offends the engineer in me.

However, if something makes more practical and economic real-word sense than the alternatives, I'm all for using the right tool for the job. I sincerely wish the islanders all luck and fair winds.

Strat

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865403)

But I don't think there are international alliances that are going to drag the world into solar power just because a tiny island nation did it.
A spark by itself is just a spark and there is no powder keg in this metaphor.

Partial Fail (0)

Githaron (2462596) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865105)

From the article:

Tokelau has a population of about 1400 and they have access to electricity for between 15-18 hours a day.

Somehow I don't think the average American will to agree to not having 24 hour a day access to electricity.

Pointless Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865137)

Somehow I don't think the average American will to agree to not having 24 hour a day access to electricity.

The average American isn't awake 24 hours a day, so how would they know ... well until they open the fridge the next morning and find that all the food is warm.

Re:Pointless Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865299)

Even a crappy fridge will keep food safely cold for at least four hours or so without any power at all. A modern well made fridge you wouldn't even notice the difference the next morning.

Re:Pointless Post (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865301)

A fridge left closed should have insulating properties be able to keep food from spoiling for a good 24 hours. So not having power overnight shouldn't be a problem as long as everyone's asleep and not getting midnight snacks.

Re:Pointless Post (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865419)

A fridge left closed should have insulating properties be able to keep food from spoiling for a good 24 hours.

Also, they know when the sun is going down, so they could use the daytime electricity to "pre-chill" the fridge below its normal temperature, so it doesn't warm above a safe level overnight. Many companies that run refrigerators do the opposite: they use cheap overnight base-load electricity to pre-chill, so they need less electricity during the day when rates are higher.

Re:Pointless Post (1)

JDAustin (468180) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865375)

Maybe so....but if I work a night shift and therefore sleep during the day, I better have electricity at night/early morning. If its available 18 hours a day....that ain't happening.

Re:Pointless Post (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865695)

We have different sleeping hours from each other, and you can't personalize your electrical hours. Plus I'd certainly notice my computer having crashed and having to reset my clocks.

Why convert DC to AC and back to DC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865117)

AC won over DC because it simplified long distance transmission using step-up and step-down transformers. A strictly local solar power plant does not need the expense and complexity of DC to AC inverters. A much cheaper, reliable, and efficient system could be designed as totaly DC.

Re:Why convert DC to AC and back to DC? (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865459)

The problem is everything expects AC, so you'd have to do a lot of work to cut the AC cord anyway. Or do you run your AC TV from a DC source? Where do you buy a DC TV from?

Re:Why convert DC to AC and back to DC? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865745)

Did you actually try it?
I have some experience designing power supplies, and I'd be rather surprised if a universal 90-240V input unit as found in any modern TV, STB or computer wouldn't work on 144V DC.

Re:Why convert DC to AC and back to DC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40866041)

The older ones with just a bridge rectifier and buffer capacitor work fine. The newer ones with PFC tend to react poorly to DC supply, but you can ofcourse apply the DC after the PFC (if it's high enough)

pointless achievement (-1, Troll)

dell623 (2021586) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865135)

I am not pro- or anti-solar power, but this is precisely the kind of meaningless 'achievement' that is trumpeted by the media and publicity seekers and will be used to push public opinion in favour of solar energy use and subsidies. What precisely is the point of a town sized nation going all solar? How can it be all solar? They don't use electricity at night? Actually they use a large bank of wonderful expensive polluting short lived rechargaeable batteries to store enough energy for the whole island for the night on cloudy days. They replaced their generator that used just 200 litres of fuel per day (a single truck can use that much) with this pointless and expensive project? I presume they have to import oil, but they can buy and stockpile a hell of a lot of diesel for the money they spent on this project. There is no way they have the expertise or raw material to make batteries or solar panels. So the self reliance theory goes out of the window - if they used wind or tidal energy that might have had some credence. What did the world gain from it? The equivalent of one less diesel truck on the roads, while spending enough money on solar cells and inverters and batteries to keep that truck running for decades. Does it help greenhouse emissions? No. Does it make the island self reliant? No.
Is it a technology that can ever be viable to supply energy to the 3 billion or so people in india and china and the billion or so Africa will have at the current rate? Hell no.
It's just a pointless vanity project for some big politician or UN do gooder or attention seeking billiionaire or an advertising project for some large corporation. I can't be bothered finding out which.

Re:pointless achievement (4, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865465)

They spent about $2,000,000 a year on fuel. They won't anymore.

Re:pointless achievement (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865935)

Might want to check your facts. Solar and wind are very popular in third world countries for a major reason, they can be localized so they don't need infrastructure. It'd cost more to run power lines to rural communities than the solar cells cost. They are on tiny islands, self reliance are grass huts everything else has to be brought in so it's a ridiculous point. The difference is when solar cells get brought in they produce power for 25 to 30+ years. Diesel is an ongoing problem. Also this BS argument I constantly see without facts to back it up that some how solar cells release so much CO2 in their manufacture that they can't possibly offset the CO2 over their lives. Making a car releases massive amounts of CO2 as does a concrete building. I seriously doubt a bank of solar cells would contribute more than making a car and all the fuel it'll burn throughout it's life or say all the coal it takes to power your house for 25 to 30 years. I doubt they did it because it was expensive and impractical. I assume they weighed the options and it made sense. FYI Pacific islands aren't like Seattle Washington. The don't tend to have cloud cover for days at a time.

not a country (2, Informative)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865163)

It's a territory of NZ.

And it's apparently not at all on solar yet, the first system turns on in two weeks, the last in October.

I'm not even going to grouse about the 3 cars that run on fossil fuel, because that's peanuts next to the fact that the country won't even have power 24 hours a day (article says 12-18h).

This article is just plain wrong.

Re:not a country (5, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865423)

You are reading it wrong. Currently they don't have electricity 24/7 because they don't run the generators all night. Once solar is running they will have electricity available all the time thanks to battery storage.

It also means they are not reliant on incoming shipments of diesel to keep the lights on, and their power system is now distributed and far more redundant than when it was reliant on a small number of generators.

Overall this is a huge upgrade for them.

Pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865183)

First, does Tokelau actually produce enough of anything to /pay/ for the solar infrastructure? I didn't think so.

Second, IT'S NOT A COUNTRY! FIVE SECONDS TO CHECK THAT ON WIKIPEDIA SAMZENPUS.

Way to go /. for hiring him. The only way to do worse is not firing him for this.

Cost/Benefit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865291)

OK, so right now they're going through about a barrel of Diesel every day for the whole island. That's really not too bad.

Now, just the batteries in the new system, keeping in mind that there's 1344 of them, and I'm being really generous here, let's assume that they each last 10 years. In other words, every 10 years the entire battery array needs to be replaced. That's a pretty impressive lifetime for SLA batteries, and even more so for wet cells, which are quite a bit cheaper and can be massive, but it's reasonable to assume that they're using mainstream technology, and that means SLA cells.

So, spread out evenly, that's one battery every 3 days (give or take a few hours) over 10 years. Of course, in the real world, you'll replace one prematurely failing cell every month or so, and then do an evaluation every year or so, maybe swap out half a dozen cells. Most of the cells will do just fine for their entire lifetime, but when that is up (again, assuming 10 years), you need to replace the cell regardless. After all, even slight differences in voltage in an array like that can cause a cell to murder it's neighbors, and you don't want that.

So, what's worse? 3 barrels of Diesel, or a 60-pound or so chunk of lead and plastic?

It's probably a wash, cost-wise, although they will be getting 24H power, which is always nice, and no noise. However, keep in mind that Diesel generators are 100+ year old technology, and as such things go, are pretty bulletproof and low maintenance. Solar gear will take more of a beating, PV cells will also get damaged, fail, and wear out, and they're not cheap.

I'm sure that they've sat down and done the math and decided that it's a good net investment, but it's definitely not ZOMG FREE ENERGY !!!!1!!ONE!

Re:Cost/Benefit? (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865395)

Less I read this wrong, "Tokelau has a population of about 1400 and they have access to electricity for between 15-18 hours a day." or misunderstanding of but they lack electric for 6-9 hours of the day.

Re:Cost/Benefit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865827)

How about "use NiFe batteries for stationary cyclic applications"?

It's a closed system (3, Interesting)

Hazelfield (1557317) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865293)

The news isn't that it's a country - which it's not - but that an entire island, cut off from mainland grid, is able to use solar power as its only means of generating electric power. This makes it very interesting, and I would like to know a lot more about what their grid looks like, how they handle peaks and lows in solar output (like day and night), and so on.

Re:It's a closed system (-1)

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They aren't replacing their generators (1)

BobK65 (2541842) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865489)

Early in the article they claim to be replacing the generators, but further down they say: "The solar power systems will be capable of providing 150 per cent of the annual electricity demand without increasing diesel demand." That tells me they intend to still use the generators and the solar will augment them to reduce fossil fuel usage. Meh. Sounds to me like the article is just marketing hype. Nothing extraordinary happening.

Why can't they use coconut oil for the cars? (1)

beanfeast (125905) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865627)

I think the most significant aspect of this is the fact that it frees Tokelau of a dependence on an external resource.

There is no airport or airstrip in Tokelau, nor are there any docks. 2 or 3 boats a month visit the islands, usually departing from Apia in Samoa. Upon arrival in the islands, passengers and cargo are offloaded on to smaller vessels before being taken ashore. As the article mentions tropical storms are a real concern in this part of the Pacific (not to mention tsunami) and shipping can be disrupted because of these natural disasters and for other reasons (mechanical failure, search and rescue obligations, medical evacuations). The difficulty, expense and reliability of supply are no longer matters that need to be considered.

What I don't understand (and this could be due to my complete ignorance regarding the workings of diesel engines) is why they still need to ship in fuel for the cars. The tropical islands of the Pacific do not want for coconut trees and the extraction of coconut oil is a straightforward process with not too much capital investment required. Surely it should be possible to use it as a replacement for diesel or at least convert it into biodiesel, unless of course the cars have petrol engines.

Re:Why can't they use coconut oil for the cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40865673)

Most likely because its an important nutritional supplement and better used on people, not cars.

Re:Why can't they use coconut oil for the cars? (1)

samoanbiscuit (1273176) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865819)

Because Tokelau consists of a group of atolls. Volcanic islands have the fertile soil and large area necessary for growing lots of crops for consumption. On the smaller atoll-comprised countries, they barely have room to house people and grow food for subsistence, let alone using coconuts for fuel. On certain isolated volcanic islands, projects are underway to use "biodiesel" which is a blend of imported diesel and coconut oil link here [rotuma.net]. The primary assets of atolls is their generally very attractive lagoons that they can use to lure tourist dollars into their economy, but sadly these guys lack an airport. They rely on Samoa and New Zealand to get food and other things like remittances.

More solar bashing (5, Insightful)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866021)

I'm always shocked at the venom aimed at solar and wind power on Slashdot. I can't think something much geekier or high tech than solar cells. I constantly see posts about how wildly impractical they are and how they create more CO2 than coal power with no facts to back any of it up. The fact is, and yes I have run the numbers, without government subsidies the payback is no more than 5 to 7 years and depending on location and power needs it can be less. With subsidies depending on the area it's usually 3 to 5 years for payback. Considering bank interest is at best a couple of percent it's a staggering return on your investment considering they'll likely power your house for 30 years, 25 to 35 depending on how much excess capacity you initially install. They will continue to produce usable power for another 15 to 25 years. I've never seen evidence suggesting that enough solar cells to power your house releases more CO2 to make than 30 years of coal based electricity. If there's actual data I'd love to see it! As to wind power contributing as much as coal fire I can firmly call bullshit on that one since I can assemble a windmill out of scrap parts and an alternator out of a junk car. The technology isn't that different than a portion of what runs your car so there's simply no way a wind mill large enough to power a home takes more CO2 to produce than a car. Also once it's set up it contributes no CO2. Localized solar cells require no infrastructure saving a massive amount of resources needed to support power line and substations. Also substations use large amounts of PCBs, a very bad thing to have laying around. The argument always descends into a "nuclear good" "solar bad". Ignoring all the problems we've had with nuclear and I'm not talking about just Russia and Japan, we have our own places like Hanford. Even under the most ideal situation with flawless performance nuclear needs a massive distribution network. Also as much of the east coast found out this summer when it goes down vast areas are screwed. Guess what happens when your neighbors solar cells stop working? You still have AC like the rest of the neighborhood with solar cells. No one is suggesting we dump all other forms of energy and focus on solar although I've heard people try to claim we should drop everything in favor of nuclear. The flaw in that plan being without a massive infrastructure of breeders and reprocessing plants that don't exist we run out of fuel for the reactors in something like 40 years if we switched over entirely. Let's drop the my teams better than your team approach to solving the energy crisis and use what works best in each situation. Lets give them credit for what they are doing switching to a sustainable solution that works for them. I noticed multiple well modded posts saying what they did doesn't count. Personally I think it counts for a lot. They are leading by example and the least we can do is not whine about it!

Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40866087)

Why not more wind power with the solar...

An island seems like a good place for wind turbines. Don't care for the noise/look of them? Use the horizontal ones. those you can hide almost anywhere and work pretty quiet too.

Why not tidal power too. surrounded by ocean seems like a good place for that....

Either way its nice to see someone finally wise up and change their energy systems for the better. Even if its some island in the middle of nowhere.

It's a start. And that really is more than the rest of the world has managed to do .

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