Wind turbines on Galapagos replace millions of liters of diesel since 2007, meet 30 percent of energy needs

May 29, 2016, Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership
An innovative renewable energy project on the Galapagos Islands -- one of Earth's greatest and most fragile ecological treasures -- has slashed diesel fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while helping to preserve critically endangered species. Credit: EOLICSA

A global renewable energy project on the Galapagos Islands—one of Earth's most fragile and important ecological treasures—has helped avoid many tanker loads worth of risky diesel fuel imports since 2007, reduced the archipelago's greenhouse gas emissions and preserved critically endangered species.

Now, after eight successful years, the project's new operators are pursuing an ambitious expansion that would multiply the benefits of renewable energy for this remote, precious archipelago with a growing appetite for electricity.

A performance summary and recommendations for the expansion are contained in a new report by the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP), a not-for-profit association of 11 of the world's foremost electricity firms, which led and financed the $10 million project.

The project's three 51-metre-tall wind turbines and two sets of have supplied, on average, 30% of the electricity consumed on San Cristóbal, the archipelago's second-largest island in size and population, since it went into operation in October 2007.

During that time, it has displaced 8.7 million litres (2.3 million gallons) of diesel fuel and avoided 21,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, the GSEP report states. The achievements have led to awards from Power Engineering Magazine, World Energy Forum, and Energy Globe.

The proposed expansion could boost the renewable energy share to 70 per cent, en route to a hoped-for elimination of fossil fuels, the report states. It could also be a template for energy development elsewhere in the Galapagos chain—where renewable sources now account for 20% of electricity production—and elsewhere around the world.

Says Marco Salao Bravo, Executive President of ELECGALÁPAGOS S.A., the local utility that has accepted full ownership of the project: "Our team shall continue working in the implementation of current and future renewable energy projects to convert the Galapagos into a zero fossil fuels territory."

The Galapagos, an archipelago of 19 islands in the Pacific Ocean 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador, is home to an array of unique, exotic plant and animal species and famed as the site of Charles Darwin's research of the evolution of species by natural selection.

Although most islands are uninhabited and protected from development, a few have growing populations, now 30,000 in all (up from 25,000 in 2010, with 33,000 forecast by 2020), economically supported by thriving tourism, which is capped at 200,000 annual visitors.

San Cristóbal, site of the provincial capital, is among the busiest islands with a bustling port and airport.

For decades, all of San Cristóbal's electricity came from diesel-fuelled generating stations. That began to change in January 2001 when a tanker, the Jessica, struck a reef and spilled about 570,000 litres of diesel oil, threatening the irreplaceable heritage of plants, birds and marine life.

A performance summary and recommendations for the expansion of renewable energy on the Galapagos are contained in a new report by the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP, formerly the e8), a not-for-profit association of 11 of the world's foremost electricity firms, which led and financed the initial $10 million project. Credit: EOLICSA

A fortuitous mix of wind and currents narrowly averted an environmental catastrophe, but the event launched an international effort to reduce San Cristóbal's dependence on diesel fuel to generate electricity.

Centrepiece of the international response: The US $10 million San Cristóbal Wind Project, a public-private partnership between the Government of Ecuador, the UN Development Programme and the GSEP, with member companies American Electric Power and Germany's RWE AG taking a lead role.

The funds went into a trust, which created an independent company, Eólica San Cristóbal S.A. - EOLICSA, to own and operate the project. On March 31, EOLICSA transferred ownership and control to the local utility, ELECGALÁPAGOS S.A.

Each of the three turbines, designed to operate at a very low wind speed, has a capacity of 800 kilowatts. Over the first eight years, they have functioned a remarkable 92% of the time, and produced more than 26 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

The project also includes two six-kilowatt solar installations that have generated 136,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, as well as new transmission lines and advanced control systems that let the renewable and diesel components work together efficiently.

The project also boasts several environmental successes.

Its license requires it to follow an Environmental Management Plan, a set of measures to protect unique bird populations, in particular the Galapagos petrel, which exists only on the archipelago and is listed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The turbines were erected on a hill known as El Tropezón, an agricultural area distant from petrel nesting sites, and where there is little Galapagos Miconia, an endangered plant. In addition, the first three kilometres of a new 12-kilometre transmission line were buried to avoid interfering with Petrel flights between their nesting grounds and the sea, where they spend daylight hours fishing.

Also included is an effort, using poison, to reduce populations of invasive rats and feral cats, which arrived on the islands via visiting ships, and which eat petrel eggs and chicks. Furthermore, machetes are used to remove invasive plants, such as blackberry and guava, which crowd out the miconia and impair the nesting habitat.

The results: No petrels are known to have been injured during the eight years of wind turbine operations and nest monitoring reveals the pest controls are working. From 2012 to 2014, hatching success rates increased from 85 to 96%, reproductive success grew from 81 to 100%, and the petrel population appears to be growing.

There have, however, been challenges for the project over the first several years:

This table documents data on wind produced energy compared with that from diesel generation.The information provides valuable support for optimizing the project's future operation and a benchmark for other Galapagos renewables projects. Credit: GSEP

On the financial side, the price charged for electricity is fixed at a relatively low US $0.1282 per kilowatt-hour. As well, depressed global oil prices undermined Ecuador's economy, causing ripples affecting the project.

The project is eligible to participate in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), created under the Kyoto Protocol climate change treaty. The CDM set up a market for Certified Emission Reduction certificates (CERs), each equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, which can be sold by countries that are below their emission targets to those that exceed them. The project sold 11,000 CERs, for a total of US $110,000, during its first four years, but because of low prices it has not participated in the market since then.

ELECGALÁPAGOS forecasts that, despite energy-conservation programs, electricity demand will rise by 60% from now to 2024, on top of a 275% increase realized since 2003. Consumption is spurred by the rising population, a new hospital and hotel, and other factors. A national attempt to reduce the use of fossil fuels through a shift from ovens fuelled by liquefied petroleum gas to electric induction models will add about 1.3 megawatts to annual demand on San Cristóbal.

Winds vary widely daily and from season to season, leading to large variations in renewable production.

The current low oil price has forced Ecuador's government to reduce spending on all programs.

The report concludes that, with respect to energy on San Cristóbal, "a renewable penetration rate of at least 70 per cent may be achieved within a reasonable investment range." And it offers a four-step plan:

  • Overhaul and fully automate the controls that mesh diesel and wind generation
  • Install more solar photovoltaic capacity
  • Add a fourth wind turbine unit at the existing wind park at El Tropezón hill
  • Install batteries to store electricity generated when winds are strong for dispatch when they are low. The project currently has no storage.

Adding enough storage capacity to make a significant impact would be expensive, says Luis Vintimilla, General Manager of Eólica San Cristóbal S.A., and precise cost estimates will be included in the upcoming feasibility study.

However, he adds, with support commensurate to the international value of the Galapagos, 70% energy from renewable sources is feasible in the intermediate term en route to the ultimate goal of zero fossil fuel use.

GSEP has agreed to fund an evaluation, led by German utility RWE, of a phase 2 expansion of the project involving the organization. RWE will assess the feasibility of options to further increase the share of renewables on San Cristobal and to deploy innovative energy solutions such as advanced integrated technology portfolios consisting of wind, solar PV and battery storage.

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WillieWard
1.8 / 5 (5) May 29, 2016
luckless birds,
a single oiled seabird is horrible, but it is all right if millions are slaughtered in midair by eco-friendly choppers that also cause massive destruction of Galapagos' natural landscapes.
http://www.thenat...9965.jpg
http://www.thenat...9965.jpg
http://www.thenat...9965.jpg
Save_energy
2.7 / 5 (7) May 30, 2016
But…
$10 million was spent on wind mills to save 2.3 million gallons of diesel.
The pump price for diesel in Ecuador is in the order of $0.29/gallon.

This means that $10 million was spent on windmills to save roughly $667,000 worth of diesel fuel;
That's raised the cost per kWh x1500% !!!
The scheme can never recover its cost in its life-time, plus you have increasing operating & maintenance costs as the system ages.

That money could have been spent on more effective ecological protection measures.
antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (9) May 30, 2016
That's raised the cost per kWh x1500% !!!

*Sigh*...by now you should be aware that the cost of an energy source (fossil fuels) is more than just pumping it out of the ground.

Cost of a form of energy is from sourcing to (and including) removal of any and all waste and residue it creates when it is used. Now plug that into a fossil fuel calculation (i.e. adding all the costs due to climate change) and see how 'cheap' they are really.

That money could have been spent on more effective ecological protection measures.

That money was spent to decrease the highest danger to this ecological region: Oil spills.
whoknows
2 / 5 (4) May 30, 2016
I do wonder what the environmental consequences are of the extraction of all this energy from the atmosphere....
Whydening Gyre
4.6 / 5 (9) May 30, 2016
Willie - More seabirds are oiled by spill than "chopped" by turbines. The blades don't move that fast.

Save_Energy - Green O corrected your calculations. And why are you economizing protection?

whoknows - You're kidding, right...?

GO & AAP - Thanks for the injection of a little common sense in this thread...
whoknows
2.3 / 5 (3) May 30, 2016
Whydening Gyre - No, I'm not kidding. Fact is that turbines extract energy from the atmosphere (otherwise they would be of no use). There even is research of the Stanford University (M. Jacobson) to tame hurricanes by deploying offshore wind farms. So I don't know how you'd call that, but I call it changing the climate. I don't say it's equal or worse than the current CO2 emissions but it is something to think about.
gkam
1.1 / 5 (9) May 30, 2016
"So I don't know how you'd call that, but I call it changing the climate."
-------------------------------

I call it affecting local weather conditions.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (8) May 30, 2016
. I don't say it's equal or worse than the current CO2 emissions but it is something to think about.

I'll make this simple: Know this thing called conservation of energy? (You know...that little bit you may have missed in physics class?)

So, you take energy out of wind...but energy is conserved. That energy gets returned to the environment as heat (All power use eventually generates heat). Net energy balance: zero.

Using fossil fuel ADDS energy to the climate because you're taking energy that was bound up in a sequestered form (i.e. NOT part of the climate) and convert it to heat and pump it in there.
(And you also pump the CO2 into the atmosphere which traps MORE heat that's coming from the sun)

So if you really don't know if one is "equal or worse" than the other, you might want to think about getting off this science site, Science certainly doesn't seem to be your forte.

That's something to think about.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (6) May 30, 2016
More seabirds are oiled by spill than "chopped" by turbines. The blades don't move that fast.
"But oil spills the size of the BP accident don't happen every year. Deaths caused by wind turbines and solar farms, however, don't stop."
http://dailycalle...l-spill/
http://www.invest...-spills/
Nuclear power is carbon-free and much more ecologically friendly per unit of energy produced.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (9) May 30, 2016
More seabirds are oiled by spill than "chopped" by turbines. The blades don't move that fast.
"But oil spills the size of the BP accident don't happen every year. Deaths caused by wind turbines and solar farms, however, don't stop."
http://dailycalle...l-spill/
Nuclear power is carbon-free and much more ecologically friendly per unit of energy produced.

Not averse to nuclear energy. But we need ALL of it, not just one source...
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (8) May 30, 2016
Whydening Gyre - No, I'm not kidding. Fact is that turbines extract energy from the atmosphere (otherwise they would be of no use). There even is research of the Stanford University (M. Jacobson) to tame hurricanes by deploying offshore wind farms. So I don't know how you'd call that, but I call it changing the climate. I don't say it's equal or worse than the current CO2 emissions but it is something to think about.

AAP already explained. That heat generated also puts back energy in the form of - wind...
Save_energy
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2016
greenonions
thanks, it is liters not gals & alters the maths....a bit
So I've re=written

$10 million was spent on wind mills to save 2.3 million gallons of diesel (8.7 million litres)
The pump price for diesel in Ecuador is in the order of $0.29/litre (industrial bulk price will be lower).

This means that $10 million was spent on windmills to save less than $2.5 million worth of diesel fuel;
That's raised the cost per kWh x 400% !!! …& they still need the diesel generators for the other 70% demand plus backup for times of no wind or sun.
The scheme can never recover its cost in its life-time, plus you have increasing operating & maintenance costs as the system ages;

That money could have been spent on more effective ecological protection measures.

Save_energy
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 01, 2016
A simple solution to oil spills is - don't use ill equipped, badly maintained, 30yr old hulks (MV Jessica 1971) with an incompetent crew to deliver oil to Port Baquerizo Moreno in Wreck Bay (there's a clue in the name).
http://wwz.cedre..../Jessica
http://www.galapa...SICA.HTM

The main problem for Galapagos is "The islands have a fast-growing population which has increased from 25,000 to 30,000 in the past six years alone" a 20% increase in 6 yrs !!!
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Jun 01, 2016
A simple solution to oil spills is ...

And a simple solution to nuclear power desasters is ...build perfect powerplants and have perfectly trained crew.
A simple solution to rocket-failures is: build perfect rockets

However, perfection isn't attainable. Especially if something is supposed to be economically viable. In that case the goal is always to make it 'barely passing current safety standards at lowest possible cost'... which sometimes includes investing in lowering safety standards (i.e. bribing politicians) during construction.

That is why we should only invest in technologies where we can easily undo the damage if it fails catastrophically (read: not nuclear, nor oil). If a windmill falls over or a solar panel field gets damaged during a hailstorm then that's bad, but easily undone.
whoknows
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2016
gkam - ever heard of the butterfly effect ?

antialias_physorg - So you claim that changing wind currents has a zero impact on the environment? In that case I'd think that Science certainly doesn't seem to be your forte. I didn't claim that the impact of that would be equal or worse than pumping CO2 into the air. I do think that there might be downsides to wind energy except for the dead birds, horizon pollution and noise. And no, I didn't miss any physics classes. You can also convert to light, kinetic energy, potential energy, etc...
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2016
antialias_physorg - So you claim that changing wind currents has a zero impact on the environment?

No. I'm claiming that it has no effect on the overall climate since it doesn't change the overall energy balance (unlike fossil fuels...or nuclear)

Windmills can have an effect on the environment (e.g. by siting them along the edge of fields - where in earlier centuries there would have been hedges and rows of trees - they can break the wind - in order to minimize soil erosion). But windmills - even if organized to wind farms - are rather local when you compare how broad actual wind fronts are (which can easily span entire nations and to a MUCH higher altitude than windmills can reach). So they're only taking a minute amount of energy out at one place. And - as noted - that energy is put back in somewhere else.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2016
Note that it COULD change the climate (e.g. by changing large scale wind patterns) if you were to, say, generate all the Earh's power via windmills/solar power in the southern hemisphere, and then transmit it all to the northern hemisphere via powerlines to be used. Then you would be shifting the heat balance of the globe around (though still not the total energy balance. So whether that actually makes anything worse would be debatable).

But since energy production is relatively local to where energy is consumed -looking at it on a global scale- there's pretty certainly no effect on actual climatic conditions. If anything wind and solar even out the extremes because they take most energy out of the environment when there is the most energy in it (during extreme sunhsine/wind conditions).
Biodiversivist
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 06, 2016
The comments about cost are valid. These turbines are a case of charity and an ad for wind. If they were serious about eliminating oil spills, they would import natural gas, convert all cars to it and use it to make electricity as well. Protecting wildlife in that area is more important than reducing CO2 emissions. The turbines are actually an absurd choice when you think about it. This is a poor third world country. I visited the power station while on the island. The control room consisted of a laptop connected to a TV monitor and two of the five big diesel generators never stop running.
gkam
1 / 5 (8) Jun 06, 2016
You are missing the point. The intent is not to save money, but to save the wildlife. It is to clean up the Diesel emissions and other fossil fuel emissions as much as possible. The islands are small and today's electric vehicles are well-suited to it and to alternative energy.

People all over the world would donate to a fund to provide clean power for this unique treasure.

Why do dollars mean more to many people than living things?
WillieWard
not rated yet Jun 06, 2016
The intent is not to save money, but to save the wildlife.
http://i2.wp.com/...toon.jpg
"the road to hell is paved with good intentions"
http://www.family...ARGE.jpg

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