Tokelau doesn’t ring a bell with many people, but the New Zealand territory is standing out in one important way: it’s on the road to become the world’s first nation 100% powered by solar.
Tokelau is made up of several atolls, which are coral islands that partially or completely encircle a lagoon (had to look that one up). These atolls are phasing out using diesel fuel for electricity and installing over 4,000 solar modules instead, as New Zealand’s 3 News reports (according to an article on TreeHugger). Installation is expected to complete by September.
One of the major reasons the nation is going solar is, not surprisingly, cost. The nation’s annual revenues are under $500,000, but its budget is $2.8 million. So the small place is pretty financially strapped. Right now, diesel powered electricity costs in Tokelau are over $1 million a year. So New Zealand’s government’s $7.5 million investment in solar is still worthwile. After the solar modules are paid off, they will still have nearly two decades of life in them before major maintenance is required.
If it’s possible in tiny Tokelau, I have to think it’s possible for larger nations as well. And I have NREL on my side The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently reported that just existing solar technology could power the entire U.S.! In fact, the report suggests that 80 percent electricity from renewables is feasible as soon as 2050. Of course, this is purely a scientific study and doesn’t take into account political challenges or financial cost, but the possibility is still encouraging.
What’s also encouraging is that one of our own states is leading the way for solar here in the U.S. Hawaii has recently reached grid parity, meaning unsubsidized solar can compete favorably with grid electricity. It’s not a perfect situation, with reluctant utilities and poor policies, but these are issues that must be addressed for solar to entirely succeed. I think that this is an awesome achievement for a state that relies on imported oil for 83% of its electricity generation, and inspiration for the rest of us.
Solar is gaining respect in light of all the recent power outages around the globe. Millions in the U.S. have already gone without power, and now India is experiencing its own blackout. But, thankfully, solar is picking up the slack. One organization has launched a campaign to distribute solar lanterns in rural area. The New York Times reports that, so far, the campaign has reached 1,488 villages in 22 Indian states. But the technology has the potential to reach many more. Same goes in Madhya Pradesh (a state in central India), where solar has been a saving grace as power grids collapse.
From charging cell phones, to powering lights to cooling our offices, solar can help meet our power demand, which is ever increasing. Not only is heavier reliance on solar power possible, it’s practical. Just read the news and you’ll find new evidence every day.