The Atiu power upgrade project will see more power to the people with an extra four kilometres of high voltage cables and two kilometres of low voltage cables being installed.
Project manager Ngateina Rani says the upgrade will allow the people of Atiu a more secure power source without the outages they commonly suffer.
“It might not curb the depopulation of the island, but at least a lack of power won’t be the reason people leave,” he says.
Rani says they also hope a more secure connection will allow more people to start new businesses on the island.
The Renewable Energy Division has put out a tender for the supply and delivery of materials for the upgrade. Construction is expected to begin in July, when the next financial year begins.
The project is being funded by the Cook Islands Government at a total cost of $750,000 over three financial years from 2011 to 2015.
Rani says there have been some delays in getting the project started due to incorrect materials being provided, such as cables which are differing sizes.
He says there are also concerns with the land where the cables will be laid, particularly the cables that run through private property and where no public accesses have been surveyed.
This issue has been highlighted with stakeholders including the Atiu Island Council and while it won’t stop the work from going ahead, it may cause a few more delays.
Another concern is that existing telecoms and water lines will be in the way of the new cables, but the team is now in negotiations with Telecom Cook Islands about how to navigate around their network.
Rani says it will also be challenging to maintain the existing underground network and overhead LV system, while at the same time constructing a new system. “The new system must be completed before we can transfer consumers across from the old system.”
Atiu residents will experience some outages during the construction phase of the network, but in the long run, Rani says power connections will be much more secure and reliable.