News 2013

Sunlabob expands renewable energy footprint in Kiribati islands with local solar PV trainings

Following major solar PV material supply contract, Sunlabob also hired to provide technical training and capacity building for local engineers


Sunlabob today announced it has been awarded a contract to provide hands-on solar PV training for local engineers and technicians in Kiribati, one of the least-developed island states in the Pacific region. The trainings – funded by the European Development Fund and managed by the Government of the Republic of Kiribati – will include Sunlabob experts providing instruction for on- and off-grid solar PV installation, operation and maintenance techniques.

The project comes on the heels of Sunlabob winning a contract in Kiribati in early 2013 to supply solar PV and related equipment for a variety of decentralized solar energy installations, including more than two-thousand solar home systems, hundreds of small businesses, community centers and schools, as well as village mini-grids.

“Providing local training is directly in line with Sunlabob’s tradition: to ensure self-sustaining, long-lasting renewable energy access by equipping local individual with the right skills,” said Andy Schroeter, co-founder and CEO, Sunlabob. “We’re pleased to be able to not only supply the solar PV materials to Kiribati’s electrification initiative, but to also provide the necessary human knowledge and training.”

The training, to be led by Sunlabob head engineer Antony Watkins, will consist of two parts. The first training will familiarize local engineers with grid-connected solar PV systems, resulting in the installation and commissioning of a 10 kWp grid-connected system at the Kiribati Solar Energy Company (KSEC) headquarters.

The second training will focus on off-grid solar-diesel hybrid systems, which will facilitate the implementation of hybrid solar systems at schools, small business and community centers throughout the islands. Both phases of training will comprise workshops that include theoretical knowledge-building and also hands-on practical technical instruction.

“Without local capacity building, implementation of decentralized renewable energy cannot be sustainable,” said Watkins.

Kiribati is increasingly turning to decentralized solar energy in an effort to reduce its dependency on imported fossil fuels for electricity generation, transport and cooking. Approximately one-third of homes on Kiribati’s outer islands currently have basic solar PV lighting solutions, but that accounts for less than 1% of the nation’s overall energy consumption.

There is a clear demand from the nation of approximately 100,000 people for the development of a more robust electricity supply to enable small business development, modern education and health services, and socio-economic growth.

“Kiribati’s approach to supplementing solar home systems with larger, more useful renewable energy generation through village mini-grids and hybrid systems is a smart approach,” added Schroeter. “Productive use of energy access is a key to sustainable rural development.”

Sunlabob’s contracts to supply the solar PV materials and provide the training in Kiribati are not the company’s first experience in the Pacific region. In 2012, Sunlabob supplied and delivered 1,500 solar home systems in the Marshall Islands, and also supplied 3,500 solar-powered lanterns and 70 lantern charging stations in Micronesia.