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Green energy for islands

The islands are home to about 11% of the world's population - more than 730 million people

Green energy for islands

About 1 million barrels of petroleum products worth more than $ 100 million are purchased daily for the island's energy supply. The widespread use of fuel oil leads to environmental pollution and affects the fragile ecosystems of the islands. The high cost of fuel and environmental concerns make the islands a natural laboratory for the introduction of renewable energy. In the world, more than 50 projects have already been implemented or are under development for transferring the islands to self-sufficient energy supply using "green" energy.

The power systems of the islands, regardless of their geographic location, have a lot in common. They are most often isolated from major power grids and rely on imports of traditional fuels. Power distribution on the islands is expensive, and the sales market is small and does not allow achieving "economies of scale". As a result, the final cost of electricity in such systems is significantly higher than on the mainland. For example, on the islands of the Caribbean, where electricity is generated mainly using diesel generators, its price is one of the highest in the world - about $ 0,4–0,6 per 1 kWh.

The use of fuel oil as the main energy carrier poses threats to the fragile ecosystem of the islands. In addition to harmful emissions into the atmosphere, black oil generation is associated with the risk of oil pollution by oil products. A similar incident occurred in 2001 year, when a tanker was transported to a bank, transporting fuel oil for one of the Galapagos Islands, which are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Then in the sea hit dozens of tons of diesel fuel.

The introduction of alternative energy on the islands is justified both from an economic point of view and from an environmental point of view. Therefore, it is not by chance that RES began to appear on the islands back in the 80s of the 20th century. By the middle of 1990, renewable sources were already used in many countries: on Channel Islands (USA), La Desirade in Guadeloupe and Reunion (France), Nanao (China), Pellworm (Germany), Bering Island (Russia) and others.

Nonvolatile islands

Of the island states, Iceland is the best-known example of the widespread use of renewable energy. A country with a population of more than 300 thousand people provided 100% of electricity consumption through geothermal and hydropower and is currently negotiating with the UK to combine power systems for the sale of "green" energy.

Among small islands, the primacy of the transition to full energy supply from alternative sources belongs to the Danish island of Samson. In 1997, as part of the "Energy 21" initiative, the Danish government decided to implement a pilot project - to make one of the islands non-volatile due to renewable energy sources for 10 years. A contest was announced for the best offer, in which four islands and one peninsula took part.

Today, Samson not only provides itself with electricity at the expense of RES (11 island and 10 coastal wind generators with a total capacity of 34 MW), but also returns its surpluses to the country's central network. The cost of electricity is about 0,1 a dollar for 1 kWh - almost four times less than the average for Denmark. The volume of investments is estimated at about 53 million euros. Experts explain the success of the project by the activity of the population: 9 from 11 generators was purchased by farmers, another 2 was bought by 500 people permanently or temporarily residing on the island. 4 thousand inhabitants of Samson own shares in power plants and even earn on the sale of energy. Moreover, it became fashionable and prestigious. Farmers, answering journalists' questions about their profession, report that they are "power producers". Encouraged by the success of the use of "green" technologies, the community of the island also built in 2004-2005 a thermal station working on straw, costing 2,9 million US dollars.

In addition to the Danish Samson, the most famous projects for a full transition to "green" energy were realized on the Canary Island of El Hierro and the islands of Tokelau in New Zealand.

El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands. The island with a population of 10 thousand people is planning to become completely non-volatile by the end of 2014, when a wind-wave power plant with the capacity of 11,5 MW will start operating there. The project is implemented by a consortium consisting of the Spanish company Endesa (Enel), the island's government and the Institute of Technology of the Canary Islands. In addition to reliable and uninterrupted power supply, an environmental effect should be achieved in the form of a reduction in CO2 emissions per 18,7 thousand tons per year. It is planned that the revenue from this power plant will increase the island's budget by 1-3 million euros per year. The funds received will be invested in the water supply system, as well as in infrastructure and social programs. If successful, the El Hierro experience is planned to be extended to other islands in the Canary archipelago.

The islands of Tokelau in New Zealand with a population of 1,4 thousand people by October 2012 of the year switched to 100% electricity supply through solar panels and energy storage. As part of the detailed strategy, a small pilot project with a power of 10 kW was executed, and then, after testing the efficiency of solar generation, diesel installations were replaced with solar panels. Part of the diesel generation was still left as a backup source of energy, but in order to improve environmental friendliness transferred to coconut oil.

The project, which cost 7 million dollars, has already been recognized as successful. He allowed to solve a number of environmental, economic and infrastructural issues. So, the savings on the purchase of diesel fuel amounted to more than 0,8 million dollars per year for the whole island. And if earlier electricity was supplied 15-18 hours per day, now the power supply became uninterrupted. Currently, Tokelau is considered by experts as a model for the Pacific region. The problem of Tokelau remains the climatic conditions, which negatively affect the mechanisms of the generators, as well as the complexity of the electricity distribution system. The population is spread out over three atolls, communication between them is difficult, and this creates risks for the reliability of energy supply.

Prospective projects

A large-scale renewable energy project is being implemented in the Republic of Mauritius. An island with a population of about one and a half million people is forced to import fuel oil, coal and other traditional fuels to ensure 75% energy consumption. In 2008, the state program “Mauritius is an island of sustainable development” was adopted there, one of the stages of which was the construction of the largest island solar power plant with a capacity of 15,2 MW (commissioned in February 2014 of the year). In addition to the reduction of annual emissions of CO15 by 2, the project will be a significant step in saving the budget for the purchase of fuel and increase the reliability of energy supply.

A promising region for the development of alternative energy are the islands of the Caribbean with a population of about 40 million people. As a model example of the introduction of renewable energy in this region, the small island-hotel Owair Yandar Key in the Bahamas is often cited, where 100% provision of green energy reduced the cost of electricity to 0,12 dollars per 1 kWh, which is X times cheaper than energy on other islands. Well-known billionaire Richard Branson announced his decision to take this project as a model and make Necker’s own island in the Caribbean another completely “green” object. In his blog, he said that after that he plans to go to the islands of the Pacific Ocean and implement the results obtained. Among the specific actions taken in this direction, we can note the conclusion at the beginning of 3 of the year a contract with NRG Energy to install wind and solar generation on the island.

His experience can also come in handy in Hawaii, where electricity tariffs are the highest in the US. The cost of electricity there is two times higher than in the mainland states. A promising source of green energy in Hawaii can be wave energy: in 2014, the US announced plans to invest 10 million dollars in researching the possibilities of this type of energy. The pilot project will be launched off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, which in itself is a pilot project for implementing RES and Smart Grid networks.

Local solutions

Specificity of implementation of renewable energy projects on the islands is the need to localize each project for an accessible type of generation, climatic and geographic features. Despite the fact that large companies develop "replicable" solutions that can be used on all the islands, while the detailed success of the alternative energy project on the island remains detailed, taking into account local specifics. Insufficient attention to this issue caused the failure of the RES project in Sri Lanka. The Pattiapol project was supposed to provide one of the villages of the island with a local generation based on wind, solar and biogas energy. Experts cite it as an example of inefficient planning and elaboration of the baseline conditions.

The introduction of renewable energy is facing other problems. In particular, small islands find it difficult to find funding for this, and local people may block projects. Some residents of Ireland and Scotland oppose the development of wind generation, firstly, because the construction spoils, in their opinion, the landscape, and secondly, because it is carried out without coordination with local communities.

Sometimes there are absolutely unexpected obstacles. So, in 2013 in the North Sea, near the coasts of Germany and the Netherlands, the largest European object "Riffgat" was built, consisting of 30 coastal wind generators with the capacity of 108 MW and costing 400 million euros. After the construction was completed and the connection to the grid was started (using the 50-kilometer submarine cable), many World War II mines were discovered in the sea. For cleaning, special equipment was required, which became available only six months later and in addition turned out to be expensive - 6 million euros per month. The irony is that the turbines must rotate even when they are not connected to the grid, and now their operation is provided by diesel generators. As a result, the object consumes electricity instead of producing it.

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Despite the gradual reduction in the cost of energy produced by RES, it remains, as a rule, more expensive compared to traditional sources. Growth drivers are significant state support (thanks to which, for example, in Germany, the share of renewable energy has grown to 26%), limited or expensive traditional resources (for example, in isolated northern territories and islands), political, regulatory and environmental requirements. Due to the limited possibilities of energy storage, the peculiarity is the cyclic generation depending on its source. In addition, such generation is located, as a rule, near the direct consumer. Therefore, it is mainly about small local projects.

However, the number of such projects is growing every year and changing the lives of people, companies, cities and even entire states. "Green" energy is practically an alternative direction for the development of islands that want to preserve their ecology and provide residents with reliable energy supply. Trust in it is growing due to successful experience and a growing number of such projects.

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