Implementing a Solar Power System for a High School in Tonga
Engineers Without Borders New Zealand (EWBNZ) is an organisation of professional and student engineers who aim to use their skills to provide humanitarian aid. In 2008 the University of Canterbury chapter of EWBNZ collaborated with EcoCARE Pacific Trust on the Tonga Renewable Energies Project. Upon the recommendation of the Tongan Minister of Education, a group of students and academics visited Vava’u High School in Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga. Based on observations from this trip the team decided that a grid-tied solar photovoltaic system was the best renewable energy system for the school due to practical and cultural considerations. The team returned to the school in November 2009 and successfully installed a 1.44kW solar photovoltaic system. The system has already provided a noticeable decrease in the school’s electricity bill and has survived a tropical cyclone. The power quality of the island’s electricity supply was analysed and found to be reasonable although of a lower standard than what would be expected in New Zealand. The power usage at the school was also analysed and it was found that most of the loads on the school supply were from power electronic devices and caused significant current harmonics. Energy conservation measures for computer use were recommended that could provide significant financial savings for the school. Voltage variation and surges are likely to have destroyed most of the power computers at the school. The team managed to assemble three computers from the parts of about 30 computers. Edubuntu Linux version 9.10 was installed on some of these computers for demonstration purposes. The IT teacher was happy with the solutions that Linux provided and desired to install it on computers they will obtain in the future. Overall, the project was a success for EWBNZ. The Canterbury chapter demonstrated the ability to implement an overseas project and learned some valuable lessons in doing so. The EcoCARE Pacific Trust and the Tongan Ministry of Education were also happy with the project outcomes.