Tonga’s Solar Grandmothers


Two grandmothers from the island nation of Tonga have acquired the skills to install solar panel systems in the nation’s communities without access to mains grid electricity.
According to a report on Matangi Tonga Online, Siutiti Halatoa and Siale Leohau successfully completed a six months training course in solar power installation last year at Barefoot College, India, with the assistance of the Indian Government.
The recently launched Kolomotu’a Women’s Solar Project  in Nuku’alofa, the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga, will assist the women in their role of solar installers. The project is being supported under the Tonga Energy Roadmap.
The grandmothers are the first women to be trained in solar installation in Tonga and will begin their new careers by installing solar panels in over 30 homes, starting with households without electricity in ‘Isileli, Hala ‘o Vave and Sopu. 
The solar panels and other equipment have been provided by an anonymous donor and each off-grid installation will generate enough electricity to power several light bulbs and a mobile phone charger.
Currently, Tonga’s electricity is sourced almost exclusively through the burning of fossil fuels and only the four largest islands have mains electricity.  All grid-supplied electricity, which accounts for over 98% of power used in the island nation, is generated using imported diesel fuel. The Tonga Energy Roadmap has set a target of 50% renewable energy for grid-based electricity supply by the end of this year.
Construction of Tonga’s first renewable energy power plant, the 1.5MW photovoltaic Popua Solar Farm, commenced in November last year and is expected to start generating electricity by July. The solar farm will provide around 5 percent of the requirements of the main island of Tongatapu and will reduce country’s diesel consumption by approximately 470,000 litres annually.
Image reproduced with permission of Matangi Tonga Online