Pow­ered by sun­shine and co­conuts

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH -

IN the Malay lan­guage, the co­conut palm is called pokok seribu guna mean­ing “the tree of a thou­sand uses.” Make that one thou­sand and one. In just over a year’s time, the en­tire chain of the Toke­lau is­lands plans to get 100% of their en­ergy from a heav­enly mix of co­conuts and sun­shine.

It is per­haps in­con­testably ap­pro­pri­ate that an is­land par­adise should power it­self with its two most plen­ti­ful re­sources.

The new en­ergy pol­icy should also help to make these tiny, vul­ner­a­ble trop­i­cal atolls more self-suf­fi­cient, as well as send the world a mes­sage about the fea­si­bil­ity of lo­cally sourced re­new­able en­ergy.

Toke­lau, a ter­ri­tory of New Zealand, con­sists of three small atolls lo­cated roughly half­way be­tween Hawaii and New Zealand. About 1,500 peo­ple call Toke­lau home. Since the high­est point on the is­lands is only 5.3m, they are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to the threat of ris­ing sea lev­els.

Un­der the new en­ergy plan, most of the is­lands’ power – 93% – is slated to come from so­lar en­ergy.

Co­conut power will sup­ply the re­main­ing 7%, and will come into play when skies are over­cast or when elec­tric­ity de­mand ex­ceeds so­lar sup­ply.

A fea­si­bil­ity study found that each of Toke­lau’s three atolls will re­quire 20 to 30 litres of co­conut oil per day to ac­count for their needs, which can be supplied by about 200 co­conuts. Since the is­lands are es­sen­tially cov­ered in co­conuts, that’s a num­ber that is eas­ily sus­tain­able.

Gaso­line and kerosene, shipped in from New Zealand, will still be al­lowed for mo­tor ve­hi­cles and some cook­ing equip­ment, but those needs are not great for is­lands of such a small size. Re­new­ables will be re­quired for every­thing else in a lit­tle more than a year, ac­cord­ing to Toke­lau’s leader, Foua Toloa.

The need to go 100% re­new­able is par­tic­u­larly ap­par­ent for low-ly­ing is­lands like Toke­lau, as it is for other is­land na­tions like Tu­valu, Kiri­bati and the Mal­dives, be­cause of ris­ing sea lev­els wrought by global warm­ing. – Mother Na­ture Net­work/MCT In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

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