Having broken ground last year, with an investment of US$6.6 million from the coffers of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Programme, Tonga’s first and largest grid-connected solar park is to go online on July 24. The new solar power plant at the Popua Power Station, south-east of the island capital of Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu will have a total capacity of 1.3MW and will be supplied with Conergy Australia’s mounting systems.

The Government of Tonga is placing emphasis on renewable energy sources and has set ambitious targets with its "Energy Roadmap 2010-20". By the end of 2012, this island state in the South Pacific intends to extract half of its power from renewable sources.

The archipelago which forms part of Polynesia and is made up of 169 islands, 36 of which are inhabited, is currently totally dependent on diesel generators for its electricity supply. This involves high import costs for the kingdom.

"The Popua solar energy plant is supplying as much as 4% of Tongatapu's energy requirements", says Conergy Australia managing director Rodger Meads. "That also means that the island nation saves the cost of 470,000 litres of expensive diesel fuel and avoids emitting 2,000 tonnes of CO2 each year. The benefits of the project are, therefore, twofold: it spares the environment and has a positive effect on energy costs. That is why we are pleased to be able to contribute to this unique project."

The power plant's project developer is Meridian Energy from New Zealand. The solar company Reid Technology, also from New Zealand, is responsible for the implementation.

Reid Technology and Conergy have been collaborating since 2007. The two partners are now successfully continuing their cooperation with the supply of the 1.3MW Conergy SolarGiant mounting system for the Tongan project. The operator is the Tongan energy supplier, Popua Power. In the future, the power plant will supply approximately 1,880MWh annually of clean solar power for the population of Tongatapu.