New Zealand firm Infratec Renewables has been awarded a $NZ3.3 million contract to build a 960kW solar farm at the Raratonga Airport on the Cook Islands.
The project – called “Te Mana o te Ra” or “the power from the sun” – began construction in mid April and will use modules supplied by JA Solar. It is due for completion in October and is using modules from Chinese-based JA Solar.
The solar farm will be owned and operated by Cook Islands electricity company Te Aponga Uira. It will be connected to the local grid and produce about 5 per cent of Rarotonga’s annual electricity demand. It is estimated that this will lead to a reduction of around 400,000 litres of diesel fuel imports per year.
However, the Cook Islands intends to go further, and has set an ambitious targets for 50 per cent renewable energy by 2015 and 100 per cent by 2020.
It will also build eight photovoltaic-diesel hybrid mini-grid systems this year to provide around 95 per cent of the electricity demand from the country’s northern group of islands.
Infratec (formerly known as NetCon) will deploy JA Solar panels and has retained New Zealand companies SolarCity, AECOM, and Industrial Controls South Canterbury. Civil construction and DC electrical works are being provided by Cook Island companies Mike Rennie Builders and Andersons respectively.
“I am very pleased to report that a large proportion of the construction work will be undertaken by local Cook Island companies,” said Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.
Infratec Renewables General Manager, Peter Apperley said it was an important project to help reduce dependence on imported diesel for power generation. “We have put together a great team to ensure that the project meets the high standards expected of it.”
JA Solar’s Australia country head Samuel Blackadder said the project was a good sign for the solar market in the Australian and Pacific-Rim markets. He indicated that other projects of this size, and including storage, were also in the pipeline. He said JA Solar’s panels were favoured because of their ability to operate in harsh conditions. “JA solar is proud to supply such a unique project, which will be positive for our market and the industry,” he said.