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June 18, 2012

Go Under or Go Solar: Asia's Small Maldives Islands Fight Back



In early May, as a participant in a two-day conference on “Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States,” the Republic of Maldives pledged to achieve carbon neutrality within its energy sector by year 2020. Now, Maldives—an archipelago that is, itself, the smallest nation in Asia in terms of population and geographic area—is receiving some help  from Japan in achieving that goal.

Kyoto-based Kyocera (News - Alert) Corporation, a solar power systems provider, has announced that, in collaboration with Nagoya-based Toyota Tsusho Corporation and Tokyo-based Wakachiku Construction Co., Ltd, it is deploying a total of 675 kilowatts (kW) of solar generation at ten locations in the Maldives Islands. The project, which already is in progress, will be completed in two phases. Schools and public facilities have been chosen as solar generation sites.

The Project for Clean Energy (News - Alert) Promotion will be executed in Malé, the capital and most populous city in the Maldives. It is being funded by the Japanese government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) , a unit of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and provided through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan International Cooperation System (JICS) —both of which are dedicated to promoting inclusive and dynamic economic initiatives in developing nations.

In this case, they not only hope to support economic progress, but to offer the local population opportunities to use solar power as an alternative renewable energy resource and to help the islands stave off climate change. 

Climate change—and specifically, the associated rise in sea levels, which analysts say could reach anywhere from seven inches to two feet  during this century— threatens the very existence of the small island nations.

Two main factors contribute to the encroachment of the sea and the slow disappearance of the islands: The first is thermal expansion: As ocean water warms, it expands. The second is the increase in melted ice, both on land, and in the glaciers and ice sheets at both ends of the globe.  

With an average ground level of just roughly 1.5 meters, or five feet, above sea level and the highest natural point on the islands only eight feet above sea level, the Maldives represent one of the most vulnerable areas on the planet to the impact of rising sea levels caused by climate change, and thus has been at the forefront of advocacy for reducing global emissions of CO2.

With the installation of the solar power generating systems, the islands will be able to take concrete action to reduce their own carbon emissions by offsetting use of fossil fuel with clean renewable energy, according to the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association.

The first phase of the project has been completed, with a total of 395 kW of solar power already installed at five locations, which is expected to generate an annual 465,227 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power and offset roughly 146 tons of CO2 per year.

In the second phase of the program, another 280 kW will be installed at five more locations — making the total project the largest-ever deployment of solar power in the country.

With a severe typhoon season that stretches from the middle of May through August, the installation team is reinforcing the back of the modules extra support bars in order to provide enhanced wind-pressure resistance.

Kyocera has been supplying solar power generating systems to developing countries since 1984 as part of the Japanese government’s ODA project.




Edited by Brooke Neuman


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