Energy Lessons From An Island Nation

Developing solutions to Fiji's energy needs - FEA committed to renewable energy sources

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.

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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.

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Project Manager Butoni Neori Drose explains the processes at the Wind Farm to the Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

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.

Related post - "Coconut Crude" which is about the sustainable use of existing copra plantations as a source of biofuels for local applications in electrical generation and public transportation.


Swinebread said...

Merry Christmas

Pandabonium said...

Swinebread - Happy Superhero Holidays to you and yours.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thanks for the information. I don't know how accurate it is as some things could be a spin by the govt. I know that many distant villages still don't have electricity but are looking at options such as solar power as you can imagine if someone is on a fibulator in a small hospital and the generator goes off what happens!
One village in Moala Island has solar panels for every home and each family pays $8 a month fee. It was set up by a gift from the French government I think and seems to be working well.
Have a peaceful holiday.

Pandabonium said...

Wendy - this is not political. Heads of state of every stripe in every country always show up at new projects, both public and private, to get their picture taken.

The FEA has been working on getting away from fossil fuels for many, many years under various administrations. The lead time for this project would have required it to have been started quite some time ago.

I have long argued against building fossil fuel electric plants in Fiji, as they are not sustainable and polluting and in addition would have negative social impacts (TVs, electric appliances, etc) and in a matter of a few years would be an economic burden (like now with $90+ per barrel oil). Small projects using renewable energy to power lights, communications, and medical applications are appropriate. I believe in that for already industrialized nations as well.


laminar_flow said...

Worked with Neori Drose, he's a Marine Engineer but without sea legs.

FEA still has to bite the bullet with Diesel imports for Kinoya, Vuda power stations which are hot standby stations when anything goes wrong at Wailoa Power Station in Monasavu.

Geo-thermal power is a solution but most of th resources is in Savusavu.

Pandabonium said...

Laminar Flow - Interesting comment. Thanks. I watched the clips you posted about Kabara and am posting them here.