By Lote Raboila
Department of Information
Fiji’s sole power provider the Fiji Electricity Authority has continued to improve its service delivery through the introduction of new energy sources.
Established in 1966 as a statutory body, FEA has continued to divert into renewable energy sources due to the ever-increasing price of diesel, which has become a burden not only to FEA but also to the consumers who recently were slapped with a surcharge on their electricity bill.
FEA has conveyed that in Fiji’s ever-changing society, people’s lifestyles revolve more and more around the use of energy.
“Our homes, our businesses and even in our leisure time we all use electricity to make things work.”
Until recently, Fiji’s electricity needs were provided for by diesel-fueled generators, which was not only expensive but also harmful to the environment.
In 1983, FEA began to make a move to renewable energy sources with the opening of the hydroelectric facility at Monasavu. In addition, a new hydro electricity facility at Nagado near Nadi was opened in 2005, which now provides 2.8 megawatts of power.
And FEA’s latest achievement in as far as renewable energy is concerned is the Wind Farm in Butoni Sigatoka.
Located on the windy hillsides overlooking Sigatoka Town, the Wind Farm sits on 48 hectares of native lease belonging to the Mataqali of Tabanivono and Sigatoka Yavusa, which expire in 2056.
FEA stated that engineers were determined that these winds were consistent enough to power wind turbines and they also understood that because the site was in a cyclonic region, low wind speed machines with anti-cyclonic measures were needed.
Wind studies and planning were carried out on the site and a call for tenders was made in 2004. FEA chose to utilize French made Vergnet turbines for this project because of their reliable track record.
FEA chief executive officer Rokoseru Nabalarua stressed that, “much planning had gone into this project. This location was selected after comprehensive wind mapping research, which identified consistent, ideal wind speeds and close vicinity to the customers.”
The wind farm project was constructed by French technology supplier, Vergnet Group of France at a total construction cost of over F$300 million.
Vergnet’s turbines were the right size for FEA’s grid and had anti-cyclone protection which was convenient in Butoni’s case.
The Wind Farm was officially opened by the Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on Friday (26/10) where he was accompanied by several other Interim Cabinet Ministers.
There are a total of 37 wind turbines which stand at 55 meters and each turbine has two blades 16 meters long with a 40 minute lowering process (for maintenance).
The Butoni Wind Farm is expected to provide the Sigatoka Coral Coast areas with 10 megawatts capacity and is estimated to produce 12 million units per year of energy.
Therefore, it is expected to save up to 2,500 metric tonnes of diesel per year which equates to a savings of F$3million a year (at present prices) said Mr. Nabalarua.
However, Mr. Nabalarua highlighted that Butoni alone cannot fulfill all of Fiji’s energy needs but is one important component of FEA’s long term renewable energy plan.
This plan is manifested in FEA’s vision that is to ensure that it provides Fiji with 90% renewable energy by the year 2011. (emphasis added)
To compliment this vision, FEA is also developing a new 40 megawatts Nadarivatu Hydro Project in Nadarivatu in Ra, which has an estimated cost of F$100million. This is expected to be operational in 2010.
Likewise, a new wood chip project is underway in Lautoka, which will provide an output of 9 megawatts when it’s operational in 2009.
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