Have you ever closed your eyes and wondered what a solar utopia would look like? If you are like me, you would think of sandy beaches, a lot of sun, a healthy native population. Maybe you wouldn’t see solar collectors or solar panels in such obvious places. You need not dream any more. The three tiny islands that comprise the New Zealand territory of Tokelau, Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo, have recently achieved something no other place in the world has accomplished: complete and total freedom from fossil fuels.
These islands in the South Pacific have transitioned from relying upon imported diesel fuel to solar power to provide all of their energy needs. Previously, the residents of these islands relied on imported diesel to power electrical generators, which had significant economic and environmental costs. However, this has all changed thanks to a $7 million project funded by the government of New Zealand. Installation of solar panels was completed earlier this month, and now solar power provides all of the needs for these islands.
It seems that the creation of this solar utopia was possible due to the fact that the islands are rather small in land mass and have a population of just 1,500. The installation of solar panels marks a new beginning for the islands and their inhabitants. The exorbitant amount of money that was previously spent to import diesel can now be invested in social welfare projects. It also allows for more residents to have access to affordable energy.
These islands, located between New Zealand and Hawaii, can inspire smaller Pacific nations and similar regions to pursue renewable energy independence. To help spread the word about the benefits of solar and renewables, New Zealand will be co-hosting a South Pacific clean energy summit in 2013 with Tokelau, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. We have heard that Tonga and the Cook Islands are trying to develop similar solar programs to create more solar utopian areas of the world.