Ecuador Eliminating Fossil Fuel Use in the Galapagos

May 7, 2009
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The Galapagos Islands rank right up there with the Amazon and the Serengeti as one of the richest and best known, yet fragile and threatened, ecosystems in the world. Now, the Ecuadoran government is looking to a range of alternative energy resources to make sure it stays that way.

Recognized by the UN as a World Heritage Site for its rare and unique marine and terrestrial fauna and flora, booming eco-tourism in the Galapagos, ironically, has added to the challenges and problems faced by those looking to restore and protect the island’s native species and ecological balance.

The Ecuadoran government has turned to wind and solar power as a means of realizing its goals. Along with a range of international aid organizations and private sector businesses, it’s working to eliminate the use of fossil fuels on the Galapagos Islands by 2015.

If You’re Not Part of the Solution…

The Ecuadoran government’s projects in the Galapagos clearly demonstrate the significant long- and short-term advantages and benefits renewable energy resources and technology can provide. As project participants expect to demonstrate, a diversified base of clean, renewable energy systems can reliably and economically supply electrical power needs with a much smaller physical footprint, and with little or no environmental risk and damage as compared to their fossil fuel counterparts.

Wind and solar power play big roles in the government’s renewable energy plans. Wind turbines and solar panels are now generating electricity for the community of San Cristobal, population around 6,000.

The $10.8 million, 2.4-megawatt San Cristobal Wind Project’s three wind turbines are part of a hybrid wind-diesel system that cuts diesel fuel consumption by half. That eliminates CO2 emissions by some 2,800 tons a year and cuts diesel fuel shipments–subject to catastrophic accidents and spills such as one that occurred in 2001–by half, reports Anthony Tisot in the March/April edition of North American Clean Energy.

The project was carried out by the Ecuadoran government in partnership with the United Nations Development Program, private Ecuadoran businesses and the non-profit consortium of the world’s largest electric companies e8.

Solar powered LED lighting is being used on three 50-meter high navigational tower at San Cristobal’s two airports to reduce diesel fuel usage and reduce the threat to birds. A subsidiary of Spain’s Made Tecnologias Renovables selected and installed a set of LEDs from British Columbia’s Carmanah Technologies that was originally designed for the US Air Force. The LEDs on average require just 1.5 hours of sunlight per day to operate up to snuff.

Check out some previous coverage of the Galapagos here.