New South Wales Energy company Essential Energy will donate surplus solar panels to villages in Vanuatu to supply lighting to people who were affected by Cyclone Pam in 2015.

The 700 photo-voltaic (PV) modules from Essential Energy’s small-scale demonstration solar farm in Queanbeyan will be donated to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) for use in its overseas volunteer aid work.

The 50 kilowatt Queanbeyan solar farm occupies a 1,872m² space next to Essential Energy’s Queanbeyan Depot and was established in 1998 as a small-scale demonstration of renewable energy generation.

However, the low system efficiency compared with current technology meant the equipment has reached the end of its serviceable life.

Essential Energy Chief Executive Officer John Cleland said the ageing solar farm had been identified as surplus to business requirements and recently decommissioned.

“We initially offered the solar farm components for disposal through a public tender process but when that was unsuccessful we explored other options for the equipment,” Mr Cleland said.

“One of our employees discovered the SEIA aid project that aims to improve the living conditions for Vanuatu’s poorest and most isolated people by providing solar power for their households.

“It was a natural fit and a wonderful example of recycling to make a difference in other people’s lives.”

Solar installation on a health clinic in Vanuatu similar to what Essential Energy's panels will be used for.

Solar installation on a health clinic in Vanuatu similar to what Essential Energy’s panels will be used for.

SEIA Project Manager Diana Pook said the panels will be installed on village school roofs and huts, and used in conjunction with 12-volt batteries to supply basic lighting for villages.

The project will deliver many benefits to the villages including enabling islander children to study and complete their homework in the evenings.

“SEIA is excited to partner with Essential Energy to help the people of Vanuatu,” Ms Pook said.

“We have already undertaken a number of projects and look forward to utilising the generous contribution from Essential Energy to complete many more.”

Accredited contractor Solar Maintenance And Renewable Technologies (SMART) has started dismantling the solar farm in preparation for the delicate operation of packaging the panels onto pallets and shipping them to SEIA in Sydney ready for export to the South Pacific in October 2016.

SMART Director Dave Galloway said the company is proud to be part of the project which has found a positive use of decommissioned PV modules.

“It’s fantastic to be able to work with Essential Energy and SEIA with their forward thinking attitude towards benefiting the PV industry, remote communities and, specifically, the correct handling of decommissioned PV modules,” Mr Galloway said.

“This is as great step forward and example that has been set.”

Lauren Cella

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