The political head of the New Zealand islands of Tokelau recently announced a new energy policy that would seem quite outlandish to most individuals living in first world nations. Abandoning traditional energy sources, Tokelau will be completely powered by sunlight and coconut oil.
Both rich in resources and looking for sustainable energy alternatives, the three small islands that make up Tokelau have decided to take advantage of their abundance of coconuts and persistently strong sunshine. The 1,500 residents residing in Tokelau will be among the first to experience the switch to an energy system ran entirely on renewable resources.
“I have been pushing the issue of 100 percent solar,” said Tokelau’s leader Foua Toloa in an interview with Radio New Zealand in 2009. “So by February next year we’ll try to beat every nation in the world to become the first country to be energy renewable completely run by solar and a little bit of coconut oil.”
Currently, the islands utilize diesel to fuel their electricity demands. Most of the population, who live under the New Zealand flag, own modern appliances that require a sufficient source of power. Around 90% own refrigerators, 57% own washing machines, and many households are equipped with satellite TV and internet. The islands have been importing 42,000 gallons if diesel, 47,000 gallons of gasoline, and 15,000 gallons of kerosene annually to meet their power needs. Even during that time, solar energy was also stabilizing the power grid.
The statistics show just how much energy even a small string of islands can require, and the fact that this modern society is switching to coconut oil and sunshine to power their entire infrastructure is a way to determine the effectiveness of such resources in place of traditional fuel sources. The new alternative energy plan will allot 93% of the power generation burden to photovoltaic solar arrays, with the remainder placed on biofuel derived from coconuts. Motor vehicles and some cooking equipment will still require imported gasoline and kerosene to run, but the overall power grid will be renewable.