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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Aug. 26) — European Union funding will provide solar power to 400 homes on a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands, providing electricity for the first time.

The Marshall Islands is the first of five Pacific countries that have been negotiating solar aid packages with the EU to actually get to the contract signing phase after six years, according to EU and Marshall Islands officials.

Marshall Islands Finance Minister Brenson Wase and Fiji-based CBS Power Solutions’ Avinesh Naidu signed the $1.5 million contract for the delivery of 440 home solar units earlier this week.

Most will go into Ailinglaplap, a remote atoll with five main islands, a population of about 2,000 people and no power source.

"This project is another step toward bringing solar power to all inhabited outer islands in the Marshall Islands," said Resources and Development Minister John Silk.

In the past two years, the government has installed solar units in the homes on four other remote islands in the country with

funding provided by Taiwan, France and Australia.

While Ailinglaplap will soon be seeing installation of solar units, other Pacific islands still have some time to wait.

EU officials indicated that the solar projects in Palau and Kosrae are expected to be put out for bid by the end of August, while the Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap, Nauru and Niue projects are expected to go out for bid in September.

Most of these islands will be getting home solar equipment similar to the Marshall Islands. But both in Yap and in Niue, solar systems will be connected to the existing diesel-powered electric distribution grids to reduce use of high-cost imported fuel.

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