The solar power system, which was funded by New Zealand under the EU/NZ Energy Access Partnership, was officially launched in a ceremony attended by a delegation from Rarotonga including Prime Minister Puna and Joseph Mayhew from the New Zealand High Commission.
“I am very happy to share this moment with you today and I congratulate Rakahanga for being the first to turn on the vision that your Government has had right at the outset – to be freed from the shackles of the international oil markets and to have your island powered by the sun.” said Prime Minister Puna.
“Your drive in the implementation of this project is proof that working together can achieve great results.
“This would have not been possible without the generous support of the Government of New Zealand and we are very grateful for this.
Rakahanga is rightly proud to be the first island in the Cooks to have an electricity system powered by renewable energy, said Joseph Mayhew, first Secretary of Development for the New Zealand High Commission.
“We share the vision and commitment of the Cook Islands Government to achieve its renewable energy ambitions.
“Already the community is saving money by not burning diesel for electricity generation, and for the first time there is secure, sustainable electricity supply 24 hours a day.”
The Rakahanga project is the first in the Huira Natura ki te Tokerau (Natural Energy to the North) project.
The main contractor PowerSmart is now currently working on the Pukapuka system, which will shortly be followed by Palmerston, Nassau, Penrhyn, and Manihiki.
The sub-contractors McConnell Dowall and Top Energy have started civil works and electrical works on Palmerston and Nassau, with Manihiki and Penrhyn to be started early next year.
The Rakahanga island council hosted the delegation for a day-long celebration of song, dance, and festivities.
A representative of the Rakahanga landowners, Papa Toka Makira reminded those gathered that “In 1959, it was prophesised by a Mama Maria that Rakahanga you will be made beautiful.
“Today, prophesy has been fulfilled.
“You have a whole new power system, with solar arrays, battery storage, power station and new generator - The streets light up at night - Today you are beautiful.”
The community has embraced the system, and has a strong sense of ownership and participation. Rakahanga Mayor Neti Tarau expressed the appreciation of the people of Rakahanga to the Governments of the Cook Islands and New Zealand and all those who worked on the project to provide Rakahanga with electricity for 24 hours a day.