Solar energy project

Ponipate Qio shows the empty water tanks in Vio Village Lautoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

Ponipate Qio shows the empty water tanks in Vio Village Lautoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

A NEW solar energy project supported by the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation (LDF) will be piloted on Vio Island off the coast of Lautoka.

The island, with a population of 200, will be the site of a $250,000 mini-grid solar system project.

The project will supply 46 households with electricity, powered by solar panels that would be installed soon.

Made possible through a public-private partnership program, the project will be headed by a trust comprising Government, Sunergise Fiji, the Fiji Electricity Authority and the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA).

Sunergise Fiji’s David Eyre said the trust would manage the project.

“We, along with FEA have formed a joint venture called Viti Renewable and we are a partner with Government, the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation and FLMMA,” he said.

“We are the members of the trust and that trust is who the community will buy power from. Sunergise and its subsidiary Clay Energy are the engineers that will build the system and also manage it.

“The funding provided by the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation will go to the trust which will then set up the solar panels and connect each household to the system.

“The idea is for us to ultimately ween ourselves off generators so 96 per cent of the power supply will come from the solar panels.”

He said once the systems were installed, residents would pay for the service.

“The first thing about payment is that they rely on kerosene to light up lamps and there’s fuel for the generator on top of the boat fare to get to Lautoka and back.

“They understand that the process of flicking a switch is much easier than the concept of going to buy a litre of kerosene which costs about $1.50. We told them that the charge for the power will be much higher but they understand.

“We have set a tariff but that amount is subject to a Commerce Commission of Fiji review and they will decide on whether it is suitable or not for the people of Vio.”

Former Vio Village headman Semi Mana said villagers were willing to pay for the extra charges.

The village mini-grid solar system project is expected to be completed in April.

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