The Atafu atoll is one of three atolls that compromise the territory of Tokelau in the South Pacific.
The remote islands of Tokelau have become the first territory in the world to be powered by the sun, officials say. The move is expected to save money and ease the environmental burden of relying on imported fossil fuels.
“The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project is a world first. Tokelau’s three main atolls now have enough solar capacity, on average, to meet electricity needs,” said New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister Murray McCully in a statement. “Until now, Tokelau has been 100 percent dependent upon diesel for electricity generation, with heavy economic and environmental costs.”
The group of islands situated in the South Pacific between New Zealand and Hawaii are administered by New Zealand, which estimated the cost of the project to build three solar grids at around $7 million.
It is estimated that oil imports account for up to 30 percent of national income in some isolated parts of the Pacific, and the move to solar power could save Tokelau about $1 million per year.
Tokelau is comprised of three atolls Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo, and has about 1,500 inhabitants.
The island nations of Samoa and Tuvalu are aiming to get all of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The Cook Islands plans to start converting to solar panels and wind turbines, while most houses in the South Pacific archipelago will begin to use solar water heaters.
East Timor's government has promised that no households in the capital, Dili, would be using firewood for cooking by 2015 and said 50 percent of the country's electricity would be from renewable sources by the end of the decade.
“Building on the success of clean and affordable energy solutions for Tokelau, Tonga, and the Cook Islands, New Zealand will co-host a Pacific energy summit in March next year,” said McCully.