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Coconuts and sunshine to power South Pacific islands

Wunderlust NZ 14th September 2011

The electricity demands of the South Pacific islands of Tokelau will soon be met by renewable energy sources

Coconuts and sunshine will soon be the main energy source of the New Zealand territory of Tokelau in the South Pacific.

Foua Toloa, Tokelau's leader, announced this week that by the middle of next year, 93% of Tokelau's electricity will be solar powered – the rest will come from coconut oil. Some motor vehicles and cooking equipment will still use fossil fuels, but renewables will power most of the tiny islands.

The three islands which make up the New Zealand territory are home to around 15,000 people which currently use 600 litres of fossil fuel per day. Kerosene, gasoline and natural gas is transported to the islands from New Zealand.

Tokelau's push in the direction of renewable energy sources came from it's risk of sinking – the islands are only five metres above sea level and are being threatened by rising waters caused by global warming.

By mid 2012, each island's electricity grid will be powered by solar cells, with batteries to store energy for the night. When thick clouds cover the South Pacific islands, a generator that runs on coconut oil will supply power to the islanders.

A study conducted by Empower Consultants, a company who assists communities in developing sustainable livelihoods, found that each island will need 20 to 30 litres of coconut oil per day – around 200 coconuts. Empower says this was sustainable for the coconut-rich tropical islands.

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