New Multi-Island Hybrid Solar System For Marshall Islands

Marshalls President: 'key step for the nation to reach its goal of increasing its reliance on alternative energy to 20% by 2020'

By Giff Johnson

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, January 23, 2017) – The recent approval by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and the International Renewable Energy Agency of an $11 million soft loan for the Marshall Islands will help finance a hybrid energy system focusing on solar power for four islands in this western Pacific nation, slashing dependency on diesel.

Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine hailed the endorsement of the Marshall Islands solar power plan as a key step for the nation to reach its goal of increasing its reliance on alternative energy to 20 percent by 2020.

“The project is very important to the Marshall Islands as it will reduce diesel-based power generation on Ebeye, Wotje, Jaluit, and Rongrong,” said the President Thursday. “The project will enable the Marshall Islands to provide power supply that is reliable, sustainable and affordable to nearly 16,000 people in these communities.”

The Marshall Islands has also sought funding from the World Bank to support this four-island solar project that is estimated to cost at least $22 million. Once implemented, it will shift the source for power from 100 percent diesel to 98 percent solar on the sub-center atolls of Wotje and Jaluit, and on Rongrong, a small island in Majuro Atoll that houses a community of several hundred. Diesel generators will remain as back up for rainy days. The biggest part of the project is focused on urban Ebeye Island and its population of about 12,000. A large solar panel array is to be installed and linked to Ebeye’s power grid, a development that is expected to cut reliance on diesel power by 40 percent.

Marshall Islands Energy Planner Angeline Heine said the World Bank has already sent two survey teams to the country to review the solar plan, and has made recommendations on various options the bank will consider for funding. She said the ball is in the Marshall Islands’ court to decide on next steps with the donors.

Kwajalein Sen. David Paul, who helped prepare the plan for this hybrid energy system on these four islands when he was general manager of the nation’s utility company two years ago, said donor support for this important work will dramatically change the current use of diesel power, saving the government millions of dollars annually in diesel fuel purchases and subsidies to the utility company to provide power supply for remote outer islands.

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As an Army officer, I visited the Marshall Island and observed their dependency on generators and diesel fuel. It is great to see they are moving to renewable energy sources.

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