- Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands to expand on Wind Farm success
Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands to expand on Wind Farm success
An innovative renewable energy project on the Galapagos Islands has succeeded in meeting 30 percent of local energy needs while slashing greenhouse gas emissions and helping preserve a critically endangered species.
The local utility, ElecGalapagos, is now moving forward with plans to expand toward 100 percent renewable energy. San Cristobal Island Wind Power Project has to date generated more than 26 million kWh of electricity for inhabitants of the Galapagos’s second most populous island.
In its eight years of operation, it has also displaced a total 8.7 million liters of diesel fuel and prevented the emission of 21,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Thanks to an environmental management plan, it has also increased the hatching and reproduction rates of a rare indigenous bird—the Galapagos petrel— which sustained zero wind turbine injuries.
“This project has been a national pioneer in the use of wind resources and has served as a reference for the development of similar projects both in the Galapagos Islands and in mainland Ecuador,” said Ecuadorian Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Dr Esteban Albornoz Vintimilla in a recent statement.
Project findings were released in a May 2016 report by the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP), which developed the US$10mn project in partnership with the Government of Ecuador and the UN Development Program. GSEP is a not-for-profit association of 11 of the world’s leading electricity companies.
San Cristobal Island Wind Power Project was set up partly in response to a 2001 spill from the tanker ship Jessica, which had been delivering diesel fuel to the Galapagos. The event sparked an international effort to safeguard the islands irreplaceable ecosystem by reducing their dependence on fossil fuels.
According to Peter Terium, CEO of GSEP member RWE AG: “[The project] has briskly demonstrated that public-private partnerships based on mutual trust and cooperation among all stakeholders are a key factor for enabling universal access to sustainable energy.” GSEP’s expansion recommendations (included in the May 2016 report) could increase the penetration of renewables on San Cristobal to 70 percent in the near future.
Population growth and thriving tourism on the Galapagos (currently capped at 200,000 visitors a year) are spurring current energy demands. The local utility, which took ownership of the San Cristobal project on March 31, plans to keep up: “Our team shall continue working on the implementation of current and future renewable energy projects to convert the Galapagos into a zero fossil fuels territory,” stated ElecGalapagos Executive President Marco Salao Bravo.