New Joint Solar Power Venture Being Set-Up In Samoa

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Green Power waiting for authorities to review paperwork

By Tupuola Terry Tavita

APIA, Samoa (Savali, May 22, 2013) – Chinese-Samoan energy venture company Green Power Samoa Fuzhou Haohui Ltd. is waiting on the government green light to start on their proposed solar project.

According to project facilitator MP Levaopolo Talatonu, the company has already began building an office at Vaitele Fou and is in the process of hiring staff.

"We have already set up an office in China and the Apia office will be opened in a few weeks," he said. "The only thing holding us back now is the government go-ahead."

Green Power, he said, has proposed to build a 3.5 megawatt solar field at Faleolo on a 25-acre property to be leased from the Samoa Airport Authority.

"Total cost of the project is around US$25 million (WST57.6 million)," said Levaopolo.

"And unlike other similar energy generation projects being proposed, our solar venture will be fully funded by our company, and backers in China, without any need whatsoever for local funding."

Levaopolo said the company has already identified suppliers in China.

"These are not your regular solar panels. These are heavy-duty industrial solar panels and, we estimate, will require over 500 forty-foot containers to ship to Samoa from China. Our paper work – including company registrations, bank account balances, personnel details, concept designs and environment impact assessment reports – as required, have already being forwarded to EPC [the Electric Power Corporation] and government. We and our partners are now just waiting on government to get back to us."

Levaopolo outlined the benefits Samoa will enjoy from Green Power’s solar proposal.

"First, apart from select key engineers from China, all the necessary contractors will be local companies and skilled personnel already in Samoa. I am seeking a meeting with the NUS Vice Chancellor to discuss the possibility of seconding technology students to observe and train during the installation phase of the project. The idea is to upgrade local knowledge and experience in this cutting-edge field of solar power generation. We have already hired a local contractor to build our office at facilities at Vaitele Fou. Chinese staff will have their offices and accommodation there.

"The Chinese engineers will only be here to oversee the complex technical side of the project. But once that is completed and the necessary training of local people is finished, then the project will be fully manned by our engineers and professionals. This will be a boon not only for employment but the technical maintenance and upgrade industry in the country. That is what the company has agreed to and our partners in China are very happy with that arrangement.

"Second, we estimate that in three years when the investment capital has been recouped, we will significantly lower our rates sold to EPC. That in turn not only benefits household consumers and local businesses but will be great for the investment outlook of this country with cheaper energy rates available. We have already asked EPC if we can up our supply to 10 megawatts. The people behind Green Power have already done solar projects in other countries delivering up to 20 or 30 megawatts.

"The vision behind the Green Power concept in the Pacific is to establish here and use Samoa as its headquarters and expand out to the region. We already have contacts with similar projects in American Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. This will especially be good for our trained and skilled people who will be contracted for similar future projects in the region.

"Thirdly, as a prerequisite, our standard currency of payment will be the Samoan tala, instead of the greenback or the New Zealand dollar other companies require. Even if the company has to shoulder excess costs due to currency fluctuations. We have agreed to this because we sincerely want to promote Samoa’s foreign exchange in regards to projects of this scale.

"Fourthly, going solar will vastly reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels. It will certainly cut in to EPC’s enormous imported fuel bill every year. And down the road perhaps, given that solar is a cheap, sustainable and replenishable energy source, we will also reduce our reliance on hydro energy thus freeing up our waterways currently used by hydro stations.

Levaopolo says he wants the project to be in full swing by the time Samoa hosts the Small Islands Development States (SIDS) conference in October next year.

"I want the world to see how well our country has implemented – and continues to implement – our climate change mitigation and adaptation programs. How local companies, industries and partnerships are adopting responsive, responsible and sustainable climate change projects and measures. It will look good for government and also our country.

A sister company – Grand Pacific Ltd. – Levaopolo added, will be building a multi-million tala resort at Saleaula at the same time.

"So in essence, we have two projects going on at the same time. Engineers for the hotel development will arrive in the country in a fortnight. I reckon it is time our economy steps out and steps up in the limelight. That we develop our country to its full potential. In doing so, we need to embrace these ventures with overseas partners who are willing and ready to help us."

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