I just returned from a week in the Fiji Islands, in the South Pacific.
The 333-island archipelago is located east of New Zealand and Australia and southwest of Hawaii, with only about 100 islands inhabited. The entire population is less than 900,000.
Renewable energy has been developing in Fiji for some time now. In fact, the Fiji government has adopted a Strategic Development Plan as part of its ambitious goal to become a 100% renewable energy power-reliant by 2011. There are several reasons why the government is promoting non-fossil fuel based resources:
- Less expensive
- More convenient
- Easier to install and maintain
- Infrastructure needs are usually minimal
- Smaller carbon footprint – i.e. more environmentally friendly
Diesel costs have dramatically soared to over 200% over the last 4 years, yet 50% of electricity demand in Fiji is met by diesel generators. No wonder there is increasing usage of solar panels and wind energy there.
On Kadavu, south of the main island of Fiji, solar power is just about the only resource for turning on lights or using electricity. All of the cell towers are solar powered. The island is off-grid, which means you can only communicate with cell phones (where there is service) and wireless internet and other electrical-based uses are quite limited.
At Matava Fiji’s Premier Eco-Resort, electricity needs are minimal, given ample skylights, wide and open areas, and louvered windows that allow breezes to naturally cool the rooms. Most of the time, all electricity requirements are covered by the solar panels at the resort. Occasionally, the owners will run a diesel gas generator for about 1 hour to recharge the batteries.
Solar Power in Fiji
The Fiji government is working to promote renewable energy among its residents. In 2008, it provided financial assistance to install solar panel systems on more than 700 homes in Fiji on the island of Vanau Levu. The government has also helped provide solar electricity to rural areas and villages.
Earlier this year, Fiji’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola signed a Record of Decisions pertaining to renewable energy. The project will help promote and develop clean energy sources.
Solar is a great option for the people of Fiji. Its reliable, easy to install, low-maintenance and lasts more than 30 years before needing replacement. Although Fiji can be overcast and rainy, solar panels still work great there.
1,000,000 Trees Planted in Fiji by 2011
A few years ago, FijiMe and the Fiji Government announced plans to plant one million trees in Fiji by 2011. The ‘One Million Trees – Our Gift to the Future Generation’ campaign was launched in the capital city of Suva, by the Ministry of Fisheries and Forestry. Goals of the campaign include addressing climate change, erosion, CO2 emissions, providing flood mitigation, working on deforestation and ensuring a clean water supply.
I did my part while visiting Fiji, planting 2 trees at the Hideaway Fiji Resort – complete with a sign announcing my contribution to the cause!
Tourism Fiji CEO Josefa Tuamoto, stated:
“It has long been a dream of mine to see Fiji, and particularly the country’s tourism industry, become a leader in this area and earn recognition for its efforts on behalf of the entire global village.”
“I would exhort all my Fijian tourism industry colleagues to get involved with this project and show the rest of the world that Fijians really can set the pace when it comes to environmental issues.”
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Fiji was the first country to announce a national low carbon travel and tourism sector initiative at the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2009. Today, Tourism Fiji and key players in the tourism, hotel and business sectors have aligned with Australian-based clean technology specialist Greenlight Technology Group (GLTG) and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) to help advance Fiji as a leading low carbon tourism destination.
Wind Power in Fiji
In Sigatoka, on the main island of Fiji, a wind farm was installed several years ago. Cutting-edge technology was used so that the turbines will spin on the slightest of breezes. When I was there last week, the blades were spinning but the trees appeared to be standing still!
The Butoni Wind Farm consists of 37 Vergnet GEV MP 275 kW turbines, and started generating electricity in 2007. The estimated renewable energy generated annually is 11.5GWh of electricity.
Clean, renewable energy is critically important to this island nation. With solar and wind resources, more electricity can be generated at a cheaper cost. Because 86% of the land in Fiji is in village-ownership, off-grid, impoverished areas can enjoy a better standard of life with amenities that many of us take for granted.
Know of any other examples of how renewable energy is developing in Fiji – or other remote areas of the world? Please share in the comments below.