South Canterbury-based NETcon Limited has signed an Asian Development Bank contract to supply solar/ battery hybrid electricity systems in the Cook Islands.

The hybrid systems, or mini-grids, are being installed on four of the Southern Group of the Cook Islands – Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro – and will connect to the existing grid in order to meet the electricity demands of the islands’ communities.

The project is being delivered by Infratec, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NETcon Limited. Infratec has installed sustainable renewable energy systems around the world from Afghanistan to Tuvalu and New Zealand.

Infratec general manager Luke van Zeller says the project, which combines solar PV and battery storage, will provide the islands’ residents with cheaper electricity and a more reliable power supply.

The systems have been designed to supply nearly all the electricity requirements of each island. Currently, the islands’ electricity is supplied solely by diesel generators.

“About 95 per cent of grid electricity supplying each island will be generated by solar panels. Any excess power created when demand is low will be stored in batteries for later use.”

Back-up generators have also been included into the energy mix for when solar generation is unable to meet peak demand due to weather conditions.

Mr van Zeller says this system will reduce diesel consumption by about 360,000 litres annually and will remove about 960 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

“Our solar generation and hybrid projects are designed to deliver lasting benefits for the whole community. This includes working alongside the community to build their knowledge and skill-base so they can operate and maintain the systems long-term.

“Our work with the local island communities is a crucial aspect to the success of the project.” Infratec’s approach reduces reliance and dependency on external short-term “expat” resources and empowers the islands to manage their power supply.

According to the Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister for the Cook Islands, Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, "The Government is extremely pleased to partner with NETcon to progress on its policy objective of transforming the electricity needs of the country towards 100% renewable energy by 2020 and the signing of this contract is a significant milestone in this journey."

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NETcon is the main contractor to Alpine Energy.

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Infratec is a division of NETcon, specialised in end-to-end renewable energy.

Energy Made Clean is Infatec's strategic alliance partner based in Perth.

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