Tiny Tonga uses big batteries to reach ambitious renewable energy goal

Large-scale batteries help Tonga reach renewables target.Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific.

The tiny Kingdom of Tonga is using large scale batteries to help it reach a renewable energy target (RET) of 50 per cent by 2020 – and ditch its reliance on diesel generators.

The South Pacific island group is boosting renewable capacity by adding the Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) to its Popua Power Station. The power station sits on the largest island of Tongatapu on the outskirts of the capital Nuku’alofa.

The nation’s first large-scale 5 MW battery has a storage capacity of 2.5 MWh. It will store renewable energy, meaning more wind and solar power can now be built across the island.

Island nation wants 70% renewables by 2030

Tonga wants to ditch its traditional dependency on diesel generation. The Kingdom is also looking ahead to a further RET of 70 per cent by 2030.

Large-scale batteries help Tonga reach renewables target.

Akuo Energy Chief Operation Officer Adrien Bock (second from left) and TPL CEO Setitaia Chen shake hands on Tonga’s battery deal. Image: Matangi News

The battery emerged from an agreement signed this week between Tonga Power Limited and French independent power producer, Akuo Energy SAS. The project involves six 40-foot containers housing Samsung Lithium-ion batteries.

The battery should be up and running by May next year. The project was co-financed by the Government of Tonga, the Australian Government and the Asian Development Bank.

As a result, the utility-scale battery will provide dispatchable power to the main island. Green mini-grids will serve the outer islands.

Tonga embraces solar, moves away from diesel

According to the United Nations, Tonga is the second most climate-vulnerable country in the world after Kirabati.

Like many island nations, Tonga is struggling to move away from the polluting diesel generators on which it has relied for so long.

The large-scale batteries are therefore part of the Tonga Renewable Energy Project, set up under the Pacific Islands Renewable Energy Investment Program.

It is also a Green Climate Fund (GCF) initiative. The GCF is a global fund designed to help developing countries reduce carbon emissions by embracing renewable energy like solar panels and batteries.

Large scale batteries lead charge in Australia

Meanwhile back home, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says Australia could emerge as a world centre for battery storage.

The global finance company says battery storage prices are falling rapidly around the world. As a result, our energy storage market could develop into a $1.7 trillion industry.

Tesla’s 100 MW big battery in South Australia led the charge for utility-scale storage when it opened in November 2017. It was also the largest lithium-ion battery in the world. Other large-scale battery projects then followed in regional Victoria, central north Queensland and South Australia’s Port Augusta.

Meanwhile, the domestic market grows for domestic solar batteries in the home, like Tesla Powerwall 2 and Enphase.