In continuation of our water projects began at the Hospital at Pangai in the Haapai group, EcoCARE Pacific Trust installed water storage and filtration systems at three high schools in Tonga. In Haapai we installed systems at Haapai High School and Princess Pilolevu Taufahau High School and on Tongatapu we installed a system at Tupou High School. These systems included a 5,000 litre water tank, with micro and UV filters for safe drinking water.
Thanks to NZ Aid, NZ High Commissioner, Air New Zealand, Rotary Tonga, Rotary Queensland and the Christchurch Rotary Club and the Ministry of Education in Tonga.
UC Engineers Investigate the use of Alternative Energy in Tongan Schools
Eight University of Canterbury engineering students and graduates are using their skills and knowledge to help solve energy problems at a secondary school in Tonga. The group, comprising members of Engineers Without Borders Canterbury chapter, plans to install a photovoltaic system on the roof of the administration block at Vava'u High School in Neiafu. They hope to get the system, which will convert solar energy into electricity, running in July. However, $35,000 sponsorship is needed to get the team and its equipment to the island nation to complete the project.
The project, which will help the school reduce its power costs, is a joint initiative between Engineers Without Borders New Zealand and the EcoCARE Pacific Trust, a non-profit organisation set up by University of Canterbury alumni to address health, education and environmental issues in the Pacific region. The UC team is made up of six students and two recent graduates from a range of engineering disciplines and from different levels of study.
Team supervisor Professor Pat Bodger (Electrical and Computer Engineering) said schools in Tonga received an allocated amount of electricity each year “but it’s not enough to cover their usage so they have to go to the community for money to pay for the extra power, or close the school”. “So anything that can provide the school with extra electricity at no cost is a good thing,” he said.
Five students, accompanied by Professor Bodger, visited the Tongan high school last November to discuss the school’s energy needs with staff, students and community to determine the most appropriate solution to the school’s power problems. The team also collected meteorological data, talked to local authorities and energy providers and carried out energy and water audits. Team member Sam Davies, who is studying towards a Master of Engineering in Management, said the photovoltaic system would provide 10-15 per cent of the school’s electricity needs. “It should cover the excess electricity the school uses over its allocation,” he said. “But it’s not just about providing electricity for the school. It’s also an opportunity for the students at the school, as well as the wider community to learn more about renewable energy so we’re also looking at ways the school can include the project in their curriculum.”
Suzanna Remmerswaal, a second professional year natural resources engineering student, and Robert Cardwell, a Master of Engineering in Management student, said the project had been a good experience for the team as it had given them all a chance to put the skills and concepts they had acquired through study into practice. “And from a project management side, there are a lot of things to organise — and that’s just as important as the technical side of the project,” said Suzanna.
Professor Bodger said the project was a “wonderful experience” for the students. “Their enthusiasm, commitment and care has been fantastic.” The team is currently designing the photovoltaic system under the supervision of mentors from the University’s College of Engineering and the Electric Power Engineering Centre in the University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
While installing the system in July the team also plans to carry out further research on other areas which they identified in November as needing attention, such as problems with the school’s computers, classroom fixtures, water supply and drainage system.
Engineers without Borders team, November 2008: (from left) Professor Pat Bodger, Jenny Chi, Luke Sinclair, Greg Hart, Tim McGurk, Losanna Latu (deputy principal), Dane Hart and Kalafitoni Latu (principal).