Pacific Islands to be Powered 100% by Coconuts, Sun

Photo: kwc909 / cc

In the 1960's sitcom Gilligan's Island, it seemed there was nothing resident smarty-pants 'The Professor' couldn't do with a simple coconut and a bit of know-how -- except maybe craft a boat to actually make it off their desert isle. But now, in similarly inventive fashion, officials on the tiny South Pacific islands of Tokelau are planning to power their territory entirely by sustainable means, with sunlight and coconut oil -- two things the island has plenty of -- by this time next year.Nowadays, the three islands that make up Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, run mostly on fossils fuels which it needs to import from the mainland. But, according to the atolls' chief administrator Foua Toloa, by this time next year the islands will be completely self-sustaining using renewable energy, 93 percent of which will be produced through solar installations. The rest, says Toloa, will come from coconut oil.

So what could inspire an island to completely rethink its energy infrastructure? The possibility that climate change could sink it, that's what. Tokelau sits just 16 feet above sea level, which means it would be particularly vulnerable to rising oceans associated with carbon-emissions fueled global warming.

"Because we are affected left right and centre, you know, by the impact of climate change. And while the rest of the world is not listening to the impact of climate change in a very small country in the pacific this project is a vehicle and a message to the whole world to actually walk the talk and not just buy lip service," Toloa said in an interview with Radio New Zealand International.

If all goes according to plan, Toloa says that no outside energy will be needed -- and that's actually quite doable. To provide enough clean-energy to power the island, experts say just some 600 square meters of solar panels will be required in total, along with a few hundred coconuts.

The Professor would be proud.

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