Uninterrupted power to cost consumers
The challenge of keeping Samoa’s electricity running without interruption comes with a cost.
This was highlighted by the Electric Power Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Tologata Tile Tuimaleali'ifano, in an interview after the commissioning of a $5.39 million tala 200 Kilowatt Hydro Power plant at Vailoa Palauli last Friday.
He said Samoa is advanced in the region, in terms of renewable energy and the use of solar-charged batteries to store electricity, which will automatically go on when the system detects a shortfall in the grid.
“Variable renewable sources – mainly solar for us because when a cloud covers the panel – the output from the solar plant drops, and that challenge was addressed, by applying batteries to store the energy.
“Once when the output is down from the solar farm, the batteries are supposed to pick that up and release the electricity stored within them – in order to meet the demand – otherwise if solar fails and so does other means like the batteries and other sources of power then it becomes a problem,” he said.
Tologata said currently the EPC has an automatic system in place that came with the batteries. But they are currently studying the reliability of the system in order to address the shortfall in electricity.
If the EPC is to have a system that does not experience disruption in services, then he said the two diesel generators at Fiaga have to put on standby as a backup.
“The first is the reliability of the system to address the issue of the system running without any cut offs and that comes with a cost because if we aim for that objective – where the power will not be disconnected – then that means there should be at least two diesel generators at Fiaga should run at any time.
“Even if we have excess supply of renewable energy we still have to run two diesel generators at Fiaga that will cost us because even if we don’t need any diesel generators we still have to run it incase solar shut downs along with batteries and other generators but there is enough spinning reserve that the diesel will pick up at a cost,” he said.
Tologata said their second objective is the efficiency and the cost reduction associated with generating electricity.
“At times we shut off the diesel generators when there is an excess of renewable energy. But then there are issues that follow, like the system becoming vulnerable, meaning there is no back-up.
“And there is no spinning reserve if production from solar, late response from batteries and other generators are all off but no diesel generators for back up.
“It is a give and take for our corporation in looking at ways of addressing this issue but if you look at the quality of the electricity at the moment compared to ten years ago, back then the power would go off nearly every day,” he added.
He also said recently there was hardly any power outages except for a major one last year.
“But we are working in ways so that there will be no power outages but at a cost.”