Solar Supports Village Livelihoods and Spurs Business in Fiji

Reliable Solar-Powered Refrigerators are Creating Economic Opportunities (IRENA)

Fiji - The installation of a standalone hybrid solar photovoltaic (PV) refrigeration system has drastically changed the economic prospects of Wainika, a remote village north of Vanua Lavu, Fiji’s second largest island.

Installed at the village community hall, the solar system enables villagers to chill their fish in preparation for the journey to the market, and helps power lighting and phone charging outlets.  A backup diesel generator ensures the operation of the freezers during long cloudy periods.

Wainika’s villagers depend on fishing for their livelihoods and need to transport their catches to the nearest market which is a two-hour drive and a 45-minute boat ride away. Keeping their fish fresh, without refrigeration, during this journey used to be impossible for the villagers, until the renewable energy powered solution was installed.

“The new freezers have helped our community generate income, improve food conservation methods and support a better lifestyle in Wainika,” explains Epironi Ravasua, Wainika’s village chief.

In just a short three months between December 2015 and February 2016 Wainika’s solar powered freezers stored approximately two tonnes of fish and the community no longer has to purchase ice or smoke the fish in order to preserve them.

The solar photovoltaic system which cost around USD14, 000 is already earning back around USD12, 500 per year. 

An additional benefit is that the system can also be used for other functions such as phone recharging services.

The Wainika hybrid system comprises of 1.4 kilowatt solar PV modules coupled with a 2, 500 watt diesel generator and battery storage to power three energy efficient freezers.

Since the inception of Wainika’s solar powered fridge project in December 2015, four more systems have been installed on the islands of Yanuca, Tavuki (Kadavu), Mali and Kia.

“With the fridges, we’ve been able to expand our range of merchandise and now sell ice creams and ice candies — a novelty for the village kids and elders alike,” says Epeli Boteanakadavu, Tavuki’s solar refrigeration caretaker. “We’re now looking to form a committee to look after the funds generated from these sales and those from fish storage.”