Samoa sets sights on largest solar array in the Pacific

Construction of the largest solar power array in the Pacific is expected to commence soon after New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully announced this week details of a 2.2 MW plant for Samoa.

Commissioned as part of the European Union-New Zealand Energy Access Partnership, which was launched at the Pacific Energy Summit last year, the plant will be located in Samoa’s capital city, Apia, and will be financed via support from the Asia Development Bank.

"New Zealand is working in partnership with the government of Samoa, the European Union and the Asia Development Bank to increase the generation of renewable energy in Samoa," said McMully during a visit to the South Pacific island in which the minister toured further possible sites for renewable energy projects with EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

"The 2.2 MW array at the Apia Sports Complex will provide the highest electrical output from a single installation in the Pacific, and is a major part of a larger renewable energy program funded by New Zealand," added the minister. "Renewable energy is a strong focus of New Zealand’s support to developing countries. The investments in Samoa reflect commitments made at the Pacific Energy Summit in Auckland last year."

The Summit’s chief goal is to assist Pacific nations’ attempts to achieve 50% renewable energy generation, and has so far secured more than US$540 million in financing for projects in the region, which has already created a hydro power plant on Samoa.

In New Zealand, PV has begun to take hold, with solar installations increasing by 370% in the past two years. The market there is currently worth an estimated US$33.6 million, according to the Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand (SEANZ), which cites falling costs as the major driver behind solar’s uptake among homeowners and small businesses.

In February this year, the country’s Green party announced plans to introduce a policy designed to allow households to borrow up to NZ$15,000 (US$12,880) in public money to install residential solar arrays, with a borrowing rate of just 4.1% paid via tax rates on each property. In December, New Zealanders go to the polls in what could be one of the most hotly contested political races in recent times, with the Greens in a relatively strong position.

For Samoa, this latest annoucement will help swell the country’s solar capacity ten-fold. Currently, the largest PV installation on the islands is a 546 kW array spread across three separate sites.