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Palmerston in urgent need for diesel to keep power supply

Monday 30 January 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in National, Outer Islands


Palmerston in urgent need for diesel to keep power supply
Taio Shipping’s MV Lady Moana prepares for her trip to Mangaia in April last year. The cargo ship is expected to arrive on Palmerston with much needed diesel today. MELINA ETCHES/22042104

There is an urgent requirement for diesel fuel to keep power supply to Palmerston Island, says its executive officer Arthur Neale.

The last cargo boat bringing supplies to the island was the MV Taunga Nui which arrived on October 31, 2022.

Neale told Cook Islands News: “We have an urgent requirement for diesel fuel to keep power supply to the island. Since December our solar energy station battery bank charge holding capacity has deteriorated because it is almost to the end of their life.”

“Daily diesel generator intervention is required to keep our batteries charged and the energy system operating. Daily uninterrupted power supply to the island is critical as the island fishermen catches are stored in freezers waiting for shipment to Rarotonga.”

With the current diesel generator daily usage, Neale said they had estimated in mid-December “that we will run out of diesel at the end of January 2023”. “There was some urgency to secure bulk diesel fuel storage capacity as there was no spare drums to hold 4000 litre of fuel as we would need to hold on island at least three months’ supply of diesel fuel,” he said.

“We were able to have six 763 litre round fuel tanks constructed by Raro Weld and able to secure with assistance from MFEM and MOT (Transport ministry)  clearance for Taio Shipping Ltd ‘Lady Moana’ to make an urgent run to Palmerston Island to deliver our diesel fuel as well as food supplies and the new school principal. And to pick up the island’s fish products for export to Rarotonga.”
Neale said they are expecting the Lady Moana’s arrival on Monday, January 30 with the much-needed diesel fuel because by Wednesday “we will be having interrupted power supply and fishermen will be losing their frozen fish for export”.

“We are thankful to Tapi and Taio Shipping for making their vessel available to make this urgent run.”

Meanwhile Palmerston Island was included in the Cook Islands solar energy project “Uira Natura O te Pae Tokerau” in 2014. The solar power came into operation on February 15, 2015.

Neale said the solar battery life span an estimated eight to 10 years dependant on the level of power usage.

“We are now into our eight year and batteries are starting to deteriorate which requires replacing. Our power usage has been high to full capacity of design so it is expected that our batteries life span will deteriorate within eight years.

“Our usual diesel usage would average about 200 litres/month dependant on the weather, less if the weather is fine a little more if the weather is rainy, etc.  Since December batteries has deteriorated to where it requires the generator to keep them charged daily. This is usually a 4.5-hour generator run burning about 45 litres of fuel. A monthly average of 1350 litres of diesel to keep power supply to the island until we are able to replace old batteries with new ones.

“We have batteries on order, but they will take some time to arrive.”

Neale says there is a programme to replace all the batteries of the solar stations in the Pae Tokerau after their 10-year life span with new lithium batteries.

“This may take some years yet to roll out.”