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Samoa to have total renewable energy by 2017

Thursday 28 May 2015 | Published in Regional


APIA – Samoa plans to operate on 100 per cent renewable energy by the year 2017.

This is the claim from Electric Power Corporation (EPC) project manager, Perelini Fonoti Perelini, in response to a question posed during a meeting with Apia’s Chamber of Commerce members.

At present, there are eight solar power generating systems operating in Samoa.

There are also one wind farm and three hydro stations.

And two fither stations damaged by Cyclone Evans in 2012, will be rebuilt and will be operating again by next year.

A 35 megawatt wind farm is soon to be built and there are plans are to build five more hydro stations. In all, this would which will make it about 40 to 45 per cent of renewable energy from the hydro stations.

“The good thing about the renewable programme that we are implementing is that it’s not a loan. It’s a straight up grant. We have got grants to build these things,” Perelini said.

With the introduction of independent power producers as administered by the Electricity Act and managed by the Regulator, six companies who will finance, build and sell power back to EPC, have signed up.

Perelini said that he had been questioned about why EPC was outsourcing.

“EPC doesn’t have the money to go and borrow to do these things like those solar systems – they cost millions of dollars. EPC also doesn’t have the expertise to develop these renewables.”

Perelini said that an overview of changes have been made and broken down.

This involved looking at costs of each sector and whether it was cheaper to out source some of this work and improve efficiency.

Perelini was asked what EPC forecasts and anticipates will come from the renewable energy programme when it is in full operation and whether it would reduce the cost of fuel?

He said that the more renewable energy is used, the less diesel is needed.

“We are already seeing that now. That’s the whole intention, to continue to reduce capacity of diesel fuel as you bring in more renewable.”

Every year, EPC spends $59 million on fuel. Perelini said that the intention in using renewable energy is to reduce that amount.

“The second advantage is that if there is a major fuel crisis overseas, our price will remain stable. It won’t be affected that much, because less fuel will be used to generating electricity.”

He said that the forecast is by, or in, 2017, Samoa will be 100 percent renewable.

The forecast is that 44 per cent will be energy from hydro energy and the rest from solar, wind farms, biomass and bio-gas.

One concern expressed by a Chamber member was with large scale solar productions, should clouds pass over, would it affect grid stability.

“With an unstable grid, there needs to be standby motors ready to ramp up at a moment’s notice and that’s expensive,” Perelini said.

“While costs may have been reduced during normal operations, when there are periods of grid instability, there will be an increase in costs of diesel production in order to counteract that caused by cloud coverage.

“The instability problems are why a lot of islands don’t have 100 per cent solar or wind because of the nature of fluctuation. These are the only two renewables that are there in abundance.”

In looking at the instability side, the combination of batteries, flying wheel and capacitors to be able to control the system, in milliseconds because it happens so quickly. They have observed that 82kw can quickly drop to 20kw.

“It’s okay right now, because its small, but as more capacity comes online,it will be a massive problem,” Perelini said.

“What we’re doing is looking at different technology that can control the frequency.

It’s not just the frequency that’s important but the voltage – you burn some of your components of your micro controls and it’s because of the voltage and fluctuation.”

EPC have a scale system that was originally designed to monitor and control the very slow time frame, but now as more solar and wind generation comes in, there is a need to speed up the control. One option is to automate the whole process.

As to whether EPC is currently accepting private and business installations where unused electricity back to the grid, Perelini said that there are two business offices that are on trial with the solar systems on their roofs.

“They are the European Union Office and that of the Latter Day Saints Church. There is also a request from another company.

“If you generate your own electricity and don’t use it, then you can do that.”

However, they have received requests from families to mount the solar systems but they discourage that for the reasons of not being able to have control over how much is going to be installed and the issue with instability.