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Papua New Guinea

GSES engineers Aaron Bonanno, Jono Pye and Matthew O’Regan recently spent several exciting weeks visiting ten remote islands in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to conduct site inspections as part of an ongoing consultancy project for PNG Power Limited(PPL). Aaron and Jono were responsible for Manus Island and several islands in East Sepik Province, East New Britain Province and New Ireland Province, while Matt inspected sites in Oro Province and East Sepik Province.

Matt with a ‘banana’ boat, the most common form of transport between islands.

The aims of the project are to develop the local solar design and installation capacity of PPL and to provide PPL with consulting assistance in the design, construction and commissioning of ten remote solar installations. These systems are primarily for aid clinics and schools that currently have no or only intermittent diesel-generated power. The need is high as many sites did not have enough reliable electricity for refrigerating vaccines and medicines safely, let alone for lighting and other loads. As well as covering these requirements, there are provisions to provide basic lighting services to meet the needs of some communities.

Aaron taking copious notes.

PPL has developed a plan entitled ‘Vision 2050’, which has the target of supplying of electricity to 70–80% of the population by 2050. However, PNG is a nation of volcanic, mountainous and heavily-forested islands, and the difficult terrain means that installing regular electrical infrastructure is prohibitively expensive. Therefore, the government and PPL are looking at mini-grid solar installations to meet their capacity goals.

Currently, there is little to no solar expertise outside of Port Moresby, PNG’s capital. Systems currently in place were installed without proper consideration of the loads, and without teaching the locals how to use and maintain them. By developing the local capacity for solar power, PPL can provide a training service to electricians and communities across the country, training them in the correct design and installation of standalone power systems and solar mini-grids.

As part of the recent trip to PNG, GSES staff took part in several community meetings (called ‘tak taks’ in the local Pidgin language, pronounced more like ‘tok toks’) to discuss the training of locals in the operation and maintenance of the systems within each village. GSES also trained two PPL staff members in site-inspection procedures, and taught them what information is required and how to obtain this by asking the right questions.


Jono gathering sun path data with PPL staff members.

PNG is a great country to visit and the people are very friendly and receptive. Aaron, Jono and Matt travelled freely, openly and felt quite safe. PNG is also a very beautiful country; the remote island beaches have comfortably warm, crystal-clear water, beautiful reefs and an abundance of sea life. There are active volcanos to climb, old World War 2 tunnels and wrecks to explore and great fishing to enjoy.

A typical PNG beach and a typical village scene on remote PNG islands.

GSES is expecting to return to PNG several times in the coming months to continue work on this worthy project bringing reliable electricity to communities.

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