21 Jul Take up of solar energy is growing on Rarotonga
The take up of renewable energy has quadrupled in Rarotonga over the last two years. A comparison of grid connections from June 2013 to June 2015 reveals the astounding growth.
In 2013, the total nominal power of grid-connected renewable generators was a little over 600kWp. Most of this was due to net-metering whereby owners of private PV systems could export up to 2kW, in some cases up to 10kw, of unused electricity to the grid and receive a credit for it. Even today, net- metering is popular and accounts for 34 percent of current solar grid connection.
Here is the big picture. Today, the total nominal power of solar modules connected to the grid is 2,386kWp as at June 2015. Some 10 percent of Te Aponga’s electricity is being derived from solar.
There are three reasons for the large jump in grid-connect solar power.
Firstly, a lot of work has gone into preparing for renewable energy. Extensive investment in modern generator controls at the Avatiu power station has improved voltage and frequency management and response times to fluctuations in generation. Wide analysis was carried out on the Rarotonga grid to ensure the power quality and protection was maintained under testing conditions.
Secondly, from 12 December 2013 the door was opened to gross metering and independent power producers (IPP). Gross metering, is a grid-connection option in which all the electricity that is produced by installations up to 7/21kW is sold by the owner to Te Aponga. Gross metering comprised 18% of total nominal power as at June 2015. Independent power producers are for large installations over 7/21kW and comprised 4% at June 2015. Since the beginning of last year private companies and individuals have been signing up to finance, build and sell power back to Te Aponga.
Thirdly, the installation of 1,000kW of ground-mounted solar array complex at Rarotonga Airport on September 2014 alone is responsible for 40 percent of the nominal power provided by grid-connected renewable generators.
There is still a substantial way to go before the target of 100 percent renewable energy generation can be achieved. For example, the development of energy storage facilities is at the feasibility review stage. But the progress that has taken place over the past five year has been considerable.
To sum up, grid connected renewable generators have increased fourfold since the beginning of 2014. Some 62 percent of grid-connect installations occurred following the introduction of gross meter and independent power producers.
(Published 16 July 2015)