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Earth Power

Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar 252

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-comes-the-sun dept.
First time accepted submitter zonky writes "Tokelau has become the first country in the world to go 100% solar power generation, moving away from their entirely diesel power supply, which formerly supplied the energy needs of the 1400 residents of their small south pacific Island Nation. From the article: 'All three atolls in the South Pacific dependency, a New Zealand territory, will have their own solar power system by the end of October, despite a slight delay switching on the first system.'"
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

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  • Hawii (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Friday August 03, 2012 @01:59AM (#40864985) Journal
    It is amazing that the USA is NOT investing more into getting Hawaii moved onto AE for energy and tesla is not pushing their car there.
    The reason why is because right now, nearly ALL of Hawaii's energy is from oil.
    Tesla could jump the production line to an easy 30K or even 40K for the model S and would still sell 100% of those cars on Hawaii.
    Oddly, Hawaii is setting up free electrical charging posts.
    • Re:Hawii (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:02AM (#40864997) Homepage

      The cheapest Tesla car starts at ~$50k, not really within reach of the average citizen.

      • by Firehed (942385)

        And how do Hawaii's income levels compare with the national average? I'm guessing it's on the higher side.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I doubt that's true after you factor the fact that virtually everything has to be shipped in. So, they may make more money nominally, but I doubt it goes as far as you expect.

          • Re:Hawii (Score:4, Insightful)

            by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:44AM (#40865171) Journal

            I doubt that's true after you factor the fact that virtually everything has to be shipped in. So, they may make more money nominally, but I doubt it goes as far as you expect.

            Almost everything I buy in the continental US is shipped/flown in, as well, from sardines to salmon, mandarins to garlic, as well as small appliances and almost everything electronic (including wire), and of course cars.

            It seems to me that the only thing I routinely spend my money on that is produced domestically is gasoline (which may or may not be made from domestic crude), warm-blooded meat, and [some] vegetables.

            Everything else comes over on a boat or a plane.

            Hawaii may not be as relatively bad off as you implicitly suggest.

            • Re:Hawii (Score:4, Informative)

              by sumdumass (711423) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:13AM (#40865307) Journal

              http://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/hawaii [bestplaces.net]

              According to that page, the cost of living is over 75% higher then average for the US mainland. I was told when i vacationed there 20 some years ago, it was because everything is shipped in.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jimicus (737525)

              Everything else comes over on a boat or a plane.

              Economies of scale. It comes over on a whacking great container ship along with 49,999 other identical items.

            • Re:Hawii (Score:5, Insightful)

              by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday August 03, 2012 @10:31AM (#40867863) Homepage Journal

              Almost everything I buy in the continental US is shipped/flown in

              Most of your food is grown domestically, not just meat. Vegetable oil comes from corn, soybeans, or canola, all three of which we export megatons of, most vegetables are grown here as well.

              Copper, gold, bauxite, and other mined materials also come from here. The US is blessed with an abundance of raw materials. Your wire and pipes are likely produced domestically [google.com] (I used to work at that factory). "Japanese" and "Korean" autos are built in the US, as well as domestic models.

              US manufacturing's death has been greatly exaggerated.

            • Almost everything I buy in the continental US is shipped/flown in, as well, from sardines to salmon, mandarins to garlic, as well as small appliances and almost everything electronic (including wire), and of course cars.

              Even if that is true in your case (and is most certainly is not true for most Americans), there are a host of things you indirectly consume that are surely made in the 48 states.

              Your electricity comes mostly from coal and natural gas that all came from within the country. That car you said was shipped in? Well, you may own an import, but most Americans do not. And even imported cars might have been made here. Toyota, and many others, have plants in the USA. You ever eat bread? The gra

        • Re:Hawii (Score:5, Informative)

          by cvtan (752695) on Friday August 03, 2012 @07:19AM (#40866251)
          Lots of low-income people in Hawaii. Schools are cash starved. Go to the library in Mountain View and you will find computers that should be in a museum. Watching tourists spend money in Honolulu gives a false impression. People I know with solar power do it for green "feel-good" reasons, not to save money. Many wind turbines on the southern point of the Big Island stand idle and rusting. The geothermal energy plant suffers reliability problems, has not expanded much and is required by contract to sell electricity at the same rate as the oil-fired generated plants.
      • The price of living on Hawaii is NOT for the average citizen. Living there is like living in San Fran or even Vail. Lots of money floats around there.
      • Re:Hawii (Score:4, Insightful)

        by geekmux (1040042) on Friday August 03, 2012 @09:25AM (#40867127)

        The cheapest Tesla car starts at ~$50k, not really within reach of the average citizen.

        Add 10 years worth of ever-rising gas prices to that cost, and that sticker becomes a hell of a lot less shocking to the average citizen (especially if free electrical charging posts are available in the area)

        Add mass-production to that model and drop the cost by $10 - $15K.

    • by Spazmania (174582)

      Yeah, you wonder why HI hasn't invested more heavily in solar and wind. There are spots on the islands where the wind is just about always going strong. No shortage of sun on the leeward side of any Hawaiian island. And oil makes electricity there very expensive. So if solar and wind are even vaguely close to cost effective, why hasn't Hawaii invested heavily?

      • Because the very expensive oil is still cheaper than the 'cost effective' solar and wind?

        Just because you use the words 'very expensive' and 'cost effective' doesn't make it so.

      • Re:Hawii (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday August 03, 2012 @05:46AM (#40865941)
        One of Hawaii's major economic activities is tourism. I imagine they are very concerned about anything which might alter their postcard-perfect natural landscape. When the tourist trade is responsible for nearly a fourth of the state GDP, much caution is exercised in anything which might impact it.
        • by Firethorn (177587)

          It might be because I'm a techie, but I don't have any problems with tastefully done solar panels, and it's my understanding that solar thermal for hot water is a requirement for new housing there anyways.

          • I was thinking more of wind.
          • Re:Hawii (Score:5, Funny)

            by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday August 03, 2012 @08:15AM (#40866531) Homepage Journal

            It might be because I'm a techie, but I don't have any problems with tastefully done solar panels

            Me neither.

            Plus, if I lived in Hawaii, I'd hardly even use electricity. My ukulele doesn't plug in and the only juice sitting in a hammock requires is pineapple. And how would you even install AC outlets in a little grass shack?

            I'd catch my own tuna for sushi and rarely wear clothes and me and my wahine would watch the humuhumunukunukuapua go swimming by...

            I'm sorry, I drifted off for a minute there.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          I imagine they are very concerned about anything which might alter their postcard-perfect natural landscape.

          Have you ever seen an oil-fired or coal-fired power plant?

          Trust me, they're a lot less pleasant to look at (or smell) than solar panels or wind turbines.

        • by haruchai (17472)

          Doesn't Hawaii also have really good geothermal potential?

      • Re:Hawii (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rei (128717) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:01AM (#40865987) Homepage

        It's trying, but there's a number of roadblocks, mostly regulatory. There's a big paperwork backlog - 3/4ths of the permit applications in Honolulu are for rooftop solar installs. Also, it was just recently that they overturned the law banning more than 15% of the grid's capacity to be from home rooftops without getting an explicit exception (it's now 25%). Before that, you had to do a long interconnect impact study for each install. Getting paid for sending power back into the grid is fairly new itself, less than a year old. On the commercial side, the utilities are building most of their new capacity as renewables, but they don't want to toss away their investment on older generation hardware. So overall it's just moving at a snail's pace.

        • The basic problem is how to store energy for when generation lags. This is the most expensive aspect of the so called green power systems and remains the knottiest problem.

          Throw up all the solar panels you want but you still have to have capacity to run things after dark. Efficient storage is the stumbling block, not generation.

          • how about storing it in electric cars?
          • You would need to store less if you used more when it was available and less when it wasn't available. This would require a change if behaviour though which arguably is more difficult than building expensive storage.
          • by gman003 (1693318)

            Geothermal. Last I checked, Hawaii was a chain of volcanic islands. And geothermal is (iirc) a very stable, reliable power source, good for base load.

            Between geothermal, solar (it's very bright in Hawaii), tidal, and wind (lots of off-shore for off-shore wind farms), Hawaii would be a really good place to test (and prove) renewable power. It even has an economic edge there it won't have elsewhere - shipping oil, coal or natural gas to Hawaii by boat is far more expensive than shipping it by ground elsewhere

      • by jabuzz (182671)

        Really I wonder why Hawaii has not invested heavily in geothermal. Would seem like an almost idea location...

      • by stiggle (649614)

        Why would Hawaii bother with solar & wind when they're sitting on a geothermal hot spot?
        Heating & electricity in Hawaii should be almost free with the amount of available energy they have.

    • What about Hawaii's "old" NELHA 220 kW Ocean Thermal Energy conversion plant [hawaii.edu] off the Kona coast ?

      OTEC solutions are apparently still alive in Hawaii, as a project and funding for building another more powerful OTEC plant off Maui's coast [gizmag.com] was awarded in 2010 to Lockheed Martin, and NELHA is aiming to build a second plant [westhawaiitoday.com] by 2014.

    • by Spoke (6112)

      I just ran across an article discussing this very issue. It turns out that the price of solar in Hawaii is already financially viable without any extra incentives, and with incentives many areas are hitting the current maximum of 15% solar per interconnection.

      http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2012/08/hawaii-drives-past-solar-power-cost-barrier-surprised-by-additional-roadblocks [renewableenergyworld.com]

      That post and the associated report covers the issues of increasing solar in Hawaii better than I can.

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        I don't know about 15%, but I can certainly understand wanting to be cautious - their electricity might be mostly oil, but that doesn't mean those generators can scale up/down on a dime - more than x% might cause problems with the grid.

        Now, I'd think that 20% would be no problem(due to average power increase during the day), but somebody higher up mentioned that the rule was recently amended to 25%. I haven't done any studies specifically for Hawaii.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      It is amazing that the USA is NOT investing more into getting Hawaii moved onto AE for energy

      Because it's run by oil barons. If they start with green energy over there, people might start demanding it over here....

    • by MaWeiTao (908546)

      I have a friend who lives on Hawaii and his entire house is powered by solar.

      Pushing the entire archipelago to wind or solar, however, is another story altogether. Doing it for an island with a population of 1400 is a far cry to doing it for 1.3 million spread across several islands.

      What do you suggest? Clear cutting huge swaths of forest to install solar panels and wind turbines?

      • Actually, they are installing solar and wind as well as wave on the islands. Likewise, there is actually plenty of places even on oahu to put solar and wind to power the population. In addition, they are talking about installing a transmission between the islands. But the AE that I was thinking of, is geo-thermal from Hawai'i. Finally, it makes loads of sense to have electric cars on all of the islands since most are well within the range of even the leaf. For this state, it actually makes good sense to
  • It helps... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bky1701 (979071) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:11AM (#40865033) Homepage
    that they are a pacific island with a population of 1400.

    Not that far from saying something like Sealand is the first nation to adopt bitcoin as a national currency, which I am sure they would if they thought they could profit off it.
    • Re:It helps... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tinkerton (199273) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:24AM (#40865365)

      It's like saying Tokelau is the first village to go solar but then it wouldn't be news.

    • Re:It helps... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rei (128717) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:25AM (#40866049) Homepage

      Besides, while they may be the first to be essentially 100% solar, they're far from the first to go essentially 100% renewable. Here in Iceland we're essentially 100% geo and hydro for our electricity. Yeah, we're only 320,000 people, but we produce 2/3rds as much power as Ireland (which has 15 times our population). A huge amount of electricity per-capita goes to industry (it's so cheap, electricity-intensive industries like aluminum come here). Of the three aluminum smelters in the country, even the smallest uses more power than all the homes and businesses combined. And we're only at something like 20% of our hydro capacity, 25% of our known conventional geo capacity (plus, geo's not been nearly well enough explored, this doesn't count enhanced geothermal, it doesn't count low-temperature geothermal, and it doesn't count geothermal straight from lava**), the largest wind turbine in this super-windy country is only 30kW, and wave and tidal (there are big waves and tides here) are completely untapped.

      Note that electricity isn't the only form of energy that people use. Like I'm sure is the case with Tokelau, we import almost all of our fuel (although there's some new biofuels plants going online which should start to change that here). Also, most of our primary energy is heat. Geothermal currently makes up only a quarter of our electricity production, but it's 2/3rds of our primary energy production (most of it being low temperature geo which we've done nothing to produce electricity from - the water comes out of the wells at usually 100-140C and gets blended with cold water down to the 80C distribution temperature - power is so cheap and abundant here that nobody can justify the cost to generate power from low temperature geo). Fossil fuels (mainly oil) make up about 20% of our primary energy consumption.

      Having such a high percent of our primary energy production as heat, not transportation fuels or electricity, certainly is unusual, but then again, we love us some hot water and use it aplenty ;) Also, the geothermal heat displaces electric and/or oil/natural gas room and water heating in homes and businesses.


      ** It was actually discovered by accident that we can produce geo straight from lava when a geo well at the Krafla volcanic system accidentally drilled into the lava dome. The lava backed up the well a couple dozen meters and then stopped. At first considering the well a loss, they decided to try to turn it into a production well, and it turned out that it actually works. ;)

    • I'm not sure if the size of population matters - with more population, you have more money. So the question is, how does the economics of the system scale on a per-capita basis?

      If it's affordable on a per-capita basis for 1400 people, why not 140 million people?

      It's an interesting experiment at a small scale which will help answer either if solar is viable (technically and financially) at a smaller scale, or not.

      I would point out that I doubt that this tiny pacific island has much in the way of heavy indust

  • by Sussurros (2457406) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:16AM (#40865059)
    Sadly Tokelau will be the first nation to go under the waves when the waters rise. I've met a few Tokelauans and they are uniformly terrific people. Their culture will pretty much vanish when migrate to New Zealand.and their kids become Kiwis (New Zelanders - the fruit is named after the people who are named after the bird).
    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      Sadly Tokelau will be the first nation to go under the waves when the waters rise. I've met a few Tokelauans and they are uniformly terrific people. Their culture will pretty much vanish when migrate to New Zealand.and their kids become Kiwis (New Zelanders - the fruit is named after the people who are named after the bird).

      Not all bad. Just imagine being able to go fishing in your living room!

  • Cost (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:18AM (#40865073)

    Well PV actually is quite cost effective against the carbon alternatives in this case. Not only is the country small making this project quite easy, but it's in the middle of nowhere so shipping costs for carbon based energy sources were equal to the cost of energy itself. One article mentioned that they were spending $800000 on shipping $1m worth of diesel every year.

    I can see how solar PV could pay for itself quite quickly in this case.

    • by MiniMike (234881)

      I'm surprised they didn't throw in any Solar Thermal [wikipedia.org] power generation. Especially at such a low latitude, it seems like it would really complement the PV. Are they too small to get a cost effective utility-size installation? The article mentions
      The solar power systems will be capable of providing 150 per cent of the annual electricity demand without increasing diesel demand.
      so they're already building over current demand.

  • not a country (Score:2, Informative)

    by YesIAmAScript (886271)

    It's a territory of NZ.

    And it's apparently not at all on solar yet, the first system turns on in two weeks, the last in October.

    I'm not even going to grouse about the 3 cars that run on fossil fuel, because that's peanuts next to the fact that the country won't even have power 24 hours a day (article says 12-18h).

    This article is just plain wrong.

    • Re:not a country (Score:5, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:36AM (#40865423) Homepage

      You are reading it wrong. Currently they don't have electricity 24/7 because they don't run the generators all night. Once solar is running they will have electricity available all the time thanks to battery storage.

      It also means they are not reliant on incoming shipments of diesel to keep the lights on, and their power system is now distributed and far more redundant than when it was reliant on a small number of generators.

      Overall this is a huge upgrade for them.

  • It's a closed system (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hazelfield (1557317) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:10AM (#40865293)
    The news isn't that it's a country - which it's not - but that an entire island, cut off from mainland grid, is able to use solar power as its only means of generating electric power. This makes it very interesting, and I would like to know a lot more about what their grid looks like, how they handle peaks and lows in solar output (like day and night), and so on.
  • More solar bashing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grayhand (2610049) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:11AM (#40866021)
    I'm always shocked at the venom aimed at solar and wind power on Slashdot. I can't think something much geekier or high tech than solar cells. I constantly see posts about how wildly impractical they are and how they create more CO2 than coal power with no facts to back any of it up. The fact is, and yes I have run the numbers, without government subsidies the payback is no more than 5 to 7 years and depending on location and power needs it can be less. With subsidies depending on the area it's usually 3 to 5 years for payback. Considering bank interest is at best a couple of percent it's a staggering return on your investment considering they'll likely power your house for 30 years, 25 to 35 depending on how much excess capacity you initially install. They will continue to produce usable power for another 15 to 25 years. I've never seen evidence suggesting that enough solar cells to power your house releases more CO2 to make than 30 years of coal based electricity. If there's actual data I'd love to see it! As to wind power contributing as much as coal fire I can firmly call bullshit on that one since I can assemble a windmill out of scrap parts and an alternator out of a junk car. The technology isn't that different than a portion of what runs your car so there's simply no way a wind mill large enough to power a home takes more CO2 to produce than a car. Also once it's set up it contributes no CO2. Localized solar cells require no infrastructure saving a massive amount of resources needed to support power line and substations. Also substations use large amounts of PCBs, a very bad thing to have laying around. The argument always descends into a "nuclear good" "solar bad". Ignoring all the problems we've had with nuclear and I'm not talking about just Russia and Japan, we have our own places like Hanford. Even under the most ideal situation with flawless performance nuclear needs a massive distribution network. Also as much of the east coast found out this summer when it goes down vast areas are screwed. Guess what happens when your neighbors solar cells stop working? You still have AC like the rest of the neighborhood with solar cells. No one is suggesting we dump all other forms of energy and focus on solar although I've heard people try to claim we should drop everything in favor of nuclear. The flaw in that plan being without a massive infrastructure of breeders and reprocessing plants that don't exist we run out of fuel for the reactors in something like 40 years if we switched over entirely. Let's drop the my teams better than your team approach to solving the energy crisis and use what works best in each situation. Lets give them credit for what they are doing switching to a sustainable solution that works for them. I noticed multiple well modded posts saying what they did doesn't count. Personally I think it counts for a lot. They are leading by example and the least we can do is not whine about it!
    • there's a certain segment of society that listens to faux news and reads the drudge report and faithfully accepts the propaganda from the oligopolies who want to retain their rent-seeking parasite status on our societies. why these people's minds are so beholden to the corporate propaganda and the well-paid demagogues is beyond my understanding. some people retain open minds, other minds close up and never think critically again, and are forever more enthralled to the propaganda channels that, for some reas

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      There are some people who's heads would explode if they ever admitted that the hippies were, in fact, right about this sort of thing.

  • Hail, hail Tokelau, a land I didn't make up!
  • Finally we're on the road to being huddled around the very last solar panel in a freezing cave, wailing "If we could only figure out how to get enough energy out of it to make another one, this would be the best technology ever invented. Ethics shall triumph over physics, just have faith."

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.