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University Unveils New Solar Project

13th February, 2012

The University of the South Pacific received a major boost in the area of Renewable Energy (RE) after a successful launch of a new solar system, the largest in Fiji, at its Marine Campus in Suva.

A 45 Kilowatts Grid Connected Photovoltaic (PV) System – a joint project by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) was commissioned by the Korean Ambassador to Fiji, His Excellency, Mr Hae-Wook Cheong on 9 February 2012.

The PV system is expected to generate about 10% of electricity needs of the University’s Lower Marine Campus and help reduce USP’s carbon footprint by more than 32 Metric tonnes of CO2e annually.

The $US 2million project, funded by KOICA’s East Asia Climate Partnership (ECAP) initiative on Capacity Building aims to help Pacific Island Countries (PICs) identify the most efficient RE resource in each of the 12 USP member countries.

ECAP has funded 20 projects in 21 countries, including Fiji and other PICs in the past four years after the Korean government initiated the official development assistant programme in 2009 to support developing countries in Asia-Pacific in adapting to climate change.

The new solar system is an important part of the overall KOICA project titled, “Renewable energy generation, resource assessment, and capacity building program for sustainable economic development of the Pacific Island Countries”.

The other parts of the project include; 24 integrated RE resource assessment systems (IRERAS) to be set up in each of the 12 Pacific Island countries.

In commissioning the new system, the Korean Ambassador to Fiji, H. E. Mr Hae-Wook described the new PV system at USP as a “monumental” work to herald a new dawn of renewable energy era in the Pacific region.

“I have high hope that this landmark collaboration between USP and KOICA will help Pacific island countries in better addressing the challenge of climate change in years to come,” H. E. Mr Hae-Wook said.

The Ambassador added that he anticipated the successful completion of the other parts of the project soon and thanked all the stakeholders of the project for their excellent work.

The system is expected to provide students with training tools necessary to deepen their knowledge in and understanding of the RE resources.

In his official remarks, the Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra emphasised that the need to move to RE was no longer a choice for PICs but a “necessity” – given that diesel and other fuels is becoming economically unviable for PICs.

“The Pacific island countries have been identified as some of the most heavily petroleum dependent countries with petroleum intensity ranging from 75% to 100%. Affordable and clean energy also helps develop society by providing income generation opportunities, lessening the burden on women and improving the overall living standards,” Professor Chandra stated.

This project, according to the Vice-Chancellor, helps USP to undertake research in clean energy technologies and contribute to the sustainable development choices of its member countries.

“This project will be used as a training site for our students and regional energy professionals. USP is collaborating with the RE industry and other partners to develop training curriculum and certification scheme for technicians/installers/designers,” Professor Chandra added.

Professor Chandra further added that the new system will also help stimulate more interest in solar electricity among the investors, government institutions and the general public.

The core goals of the project are: to help the countries identify RE sources to select the most efficient RE resource in each of the 12 USP member countries; this information as well as other RE resource data will be collected and kept in a regional databank at USP for access and use by the member countries, other organizations, members of the public, researchers, etc; and to provide high level qualification (Masters degrees) and short to medium term technical training for power engineers and RE professionals.

The Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, Dr Anjeela Jokhan highlighted that a large percentage of the countries’ GDP (gross domestic product) is spent on buying fossil fuel, which could be better spent on more important things, for example education and health.

She pointed out that to reduce the import of fossil fuels the countries have agreed to invest in RE power generation and to improve electricity access, which is currently very poor in most of the PICs.

“The completion of this project will see the first stage of our work in building capacity in our member countries. The next stage would be to continue to collect RE data for longer term, help countries set up RE systems and work on their efficiencies (building from such work in this project on the PV system), train local people on the installation and maintenance of these systems,” Dr Jokhan explained.

Professor Chandra acknowledged the Government of the Republic of Korea through the Ambassador for their generous support, assistance and commitment to research, and capacity building in environment, sustainable development and RE in the region. He went on to thank also the Fiji government for supporting the project.

The commissioning of the new solar project was well attended by Heads of Government departments, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Korean Embassy and KOICA, University staff and students, and media personnel.

******

ENDS

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