Best Off-Grid Renewable System 2021

Winner: Infratec and Sunergise for the Kayangal Hybrid Project in Palau

The project is a true best practice example of how to deliver an off-grid project in a remote, tight-knit community in the Pacific, with all three pillars of sustainability (Economic, Environmental and Social) addressed in full.

Economic: This system will save the community around NZD$62,000 a year thanks to displaced spending on diesel fuel and provide a suitable reserve to cover long term operating, maintenance and replacement costs. In per capita terms, this represents $1800/year per person.

Environmental: This system will save the community approximately 770,000 litres and 2000 tonnes or CO2-e over the project’s lifetime thanks to displaced spending on diesel fuel.

Social: Community “buy-in” is an essential and often overlooked pillar for delivering sustainable off-grid renewable energy projects. From start to end, the Kayangel community were engaged in the project delivery at varying levels. Upon project completion, a wide spectrum of the community understand how the system works, what is can and cannot do, and what’s needed to ensure its lasting legacy into the future. Examples include:

We provided training and employment to those available within the Kayangel community, supplemented with Palauans from the mainland. This training and skills acquisition has long term benefits for income provision in communities with few employment opportunities.

Children on the remote atoll had never seen a solar power plant before, so we took the opportunity to visit the school (all eight children and six teachers!) to talk with them about the project and about how energy works, how solar plants convert energy from the sun, and how we can all do our bit to save energy and to look after the planet.

We also helped them to build a garden at the school, and provided seeds and gardening equipment, so the children can now grow their own fruit and vegetables and prepare healthy lunches every day.

During the final testing and commissioning phase, we hosted the children and teachers at the plant so they could see how it all works, what the solar panels look like, and how the batteries are charged — topping off the day by presenting the children with certificates of appreciation for being the Environmental Superstars that they are.

Additional unique features of the project include:

Technological first in Palau: The project was the first example of a PV and Battery based micro-grid installed in Palau. As such, delivering a high quality and lasting solution was an essential consideration to ensure a positive legacy for renewable energy in the island nation.

Future proofing: The system was designed to the highest quality standards with built-in resiliency and future-proofing to ensure a long-term technical solution for the remote atoll. The Kayangel community now have a long term reliable electricity supply that is no longer reliant on the availability of diesel fuel via unreliable barges.


Infratec Engineer Matt Mann with the superstars The completed array showing the unique Surefoot foundation mounting system  


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Runner-up: Hubands Energy for the Matekohe Limestone Island Solar Project

In partnership with Northpower , we teamed up to carry out a complete upgrade of the rangers house on Matekohe Limestone Island in Whangarei. The only power on the island was a small and very dated 12V off grid system that was now failing to provide power for the ranger and his family living there. Running power cables from the mainland to the island was going to be far too costly so an off grid solution was the perfect answer to this challenging question.

Due to our close ties with Northpower over the years, they approached us to completely overhaul the existing system and install a solution that would suit not only this family but new families well into the future. The Island is only accessible by boat so it was a pleasure to have the ranger and his family ferry all the equipment and our installers across every day. After removing the old 12V system we began work on installing the new system and we also had some of Northpower’s own junior contractors on site to give us a hand when needed.

Our assessment found that a lot of their power usage was during daylight so we designed an AC coupled system using the Selectronic Inverter/Charger with a Fronius Inverter which gives them the best self consumption during the day from the solar panels. Excess energy is then fed into a Powerplus Premium lithium battery bank and we also installed a Honda AutoStart generator as a backup for when the weather is really bad for days on end.

The new system has proven to be incredibly reliable and has catered for the rangers perfectly. We were delighted to be part of this project as the conservation and education work they do on Matekohe Limestone Island is invaluable to our community. Having a proactive network company like Northpower has made a huge difference to the work we do here in Northland and we are very excited about the future of solar in our small slice of paradise.



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