Japan Reviews Major Solar Energy Project For Marshall's Ebeye Island

Project hoped to provide 1/3 of the daily power consumption on this small but congested island of 12,000

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, October 10, 2016) – A proposed solar project for Ebeye Island in the Marshall Islands could save the utility company anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year, depending on the scale of a plan now in the review stage.

Japan International Cooperation Agency and Marshall Islands officials reviewed the project following JICA’s second survey visit to Ebeye and Majuro last month.

The survey for a solar power generation system on Ebeye was launched following a request from the Marshall Islands government. JICA is considering options for providing solar power that would reduce the utility company’s use of diesel to produce electricity.

JICA has not yet made a decision about the project, which remains under study. The Marshall Islands is seeking to establish a 600 kilowatt solar system for Ebeye, close to one third of the daily power consumption on this small but congested island of 12,000.

The team, which was headed by Shigeru Sugiyama, JICA’s deputy director general for the Department of Industrial Development and Public Policy, will produce a “preparatory survey report” from their recent visit.

To wrap up the visit to the Marshall Islands, the JICA team met with Marshall Islands officials including Public Works Secretary Catalino Kijiner, Resources and Develop Secretary Rebecca Lorennij, and Kitlan ‘Kitti’ Kabua, Ebeye utility company’s senior management advisor. Kwajalein Senator David Paul was also in attendance. They signed off on the minutes of the visit prepared by the team.

Sugiyama explained that because Ebeye’s power consumption is relatively small at 2.2 megawatts, this makes the plan for a 600 kilowatt solar installation a challenge in terms of maintaining reliability and stability of power.

One of the key questions to be decided is will the solar system be grid connected with or without use of batteries. Batteries raise maintenance needs and costs, but also would multiply the savings to for Ebeye’s power company and the Marshall Islands government four-fold over a non-battery plan, said Paul.

For JICA, the three goals are to successfully address maintenance and reliability, while developing a project that is a model for solar use that can be replicated elsewhere, said Sugiyama.

“With the help of the Marshall Islands government and JICA, we hope this project materializes,” said Kabua.

If the project goes forward without the battery option, the power generated from the sun will reduce diesel usage by the utility company by about 100,000 gallons a year. “If batteries are part of the base load, we will go from 100,000 gallons to 500,000 gallons savings a year,” said Paul. “That is almost half of Ebeye’s annual diesel use.”

A JICA team will return in early 2017 to discuss the final draft plan.

Marianas Variety
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