Energy Crisis? Try Coconuts and Sunshine

Tokelau is not just a small county — it’s tiny. It is made up of three small atolls: AtafuNukunonu, and Fakaofo. Altogether, there are just 1,400 people in Tokelau. Though most of them are indigenous Pacific Islanders, they’re not all alike. On Atafu, the smallest of the islands, most of the islanders are followers of the Protestant Church. On Nukunonu, the largest of the islands, almost everyone is Catholic. Of course, on Fakaofo, they’re pretty evenly split.

The people of Tokelau have come together over a common concern: Sustainability.

The islands of Tokelau are very low, at the highest just 5m above sea level. This means that rising ocean waters put their existence at risk in a very real way! There’s not a lot that a tiny Oceanic nation can do to stop the global problem of fossil fuels, but they’ve got to try something, right?
Last year, Tokelau announced that is moving towards an almost 100% dependence on solar power and coconut oil. Just because Tokelau is small, doesn’t mean it is an easy task. There is very limited transportation between the atolls — no airplanes, just boats. Also, the islands experience severe weather conditions throughout the hurricane season, so these solar panels will be built to last!
This is how the New Scientist explains it:
“By mid-2012, each island’s electricity grid will be powered by solar photovoltaic cells, with batteries to store excess electricity for the night. During periods of thick cloud cover or when electricity demand exceeds solar supply, a purpose-built generator that runs on coconut oil will supply power and simultaneously recharge the battery bank.”
Wow! And they’re not the only ones. There’s an island way north in Denmark, that gets its energy entirely from wind turbines. Hmm, if I had to pick between living in a place that depended on wind, and one that lives off coconuts and sunshine…

Congratulations, Tokelau! Sometimes change comes from the most unexpected (and tiniest!) places…

~ Loke

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