by Staff Writers
Pago Pago, American Samoa (SPX) Apr 26, 2012
SunWize Technologies recently completed the largest solar installation on the island of American Samoa in the South Pacific. Backed by the United States Department of Energy and the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA), the new 1.75-MW solar electric system took over five months to install.
According to Andra Samoa, ASPA CEO, the installation marks a new beginning for the ASPA and the people it serves. "Until now, we were completely dependent on diesel generators for all of our electrical power," Samoa said.
"Our new SunWize solar installation will help alleviate that dependency by providing a much-needed 'green' energy resource. We hope to obtain additional grant funding to install more of these clean, renewable energy sources in the near future."
The ASPA's new system consists of 7308 Sharp solar panels in a fixed, ground-mount system-the largest of its kind anywhere in the South Pacific. Because land is at a premium in American Samoa, the new system was installed on a 3.93-acre site near the island's airport runway, with 2 additional acres reserved as an overflow site.
"American Samoa's location made this particular project uniquely challenging," said Paul Garvison, Senior Vice President, Projects at SunWize.
"Even the most basic components we needed for this project were not available on the island. However, we created and adhered to a very strict schedule and developed strategic relationships that helped us meet our goals."
The ASPA project faced other challenges in addition to the island's remote location. Since the installation site is located a mere 1,100 feet from the ocean, SunWize had to engineer a custom, hot-dip galvanized racking system to withstand the extremely corrosive ocean air.
The potential for 150-mile-per-hour typhoon-force winds required SunWize to secure its racking system with special footings that could be installed even with the island's volcanic rock soil and limited concrete resources. During the project's installation phase, SunWize hired a number of local subcontractors, employing 50 Samoans to assist with a variety of tasks.
Despite having to manage a number of complex situations, Garvison and the SunWize team knew that the project's eventual results would be extremely positive American Samoa's location near the equator receives over 1000 watts per square meter at peak hours of the day, an amount that's ideal for solar.
The availability of solar energy may also lower American Samoa's electrical rates in the future. Residents and business owners currently pay around $0.40 per kilowatt; however, 75 percent of that amount goes toward a fuel surcharge that the ASPA must pay its diesel suppliers.
American Samoa's Governor, Honorable Togiola Tulafono, has supported this landmark project from inception to completion, recognizing its many environmental and socio-economic benefits. He and a number of other dignitaries from American Samoa and the United States will be on hand for an official ribbon cutting ceremony at the project site on Friday, April 13 at 10:00 AM.
"Our new solar installation is an important step toward decreasing American Samoa's dependence on fossil fuel, including improving energy efficiency and developing strategic renewable energy resources," Governor Tulafono said.
"The environmental benefits are significant, and the positive impact that the system will have on our island's residents will be enjoyed for many years to come. I have no doubt that by combining hard work and determination, we will be able to secure funding for future sustainable energy solutions that will further improve the quality of life that American Samoa has to offer."
American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA)
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