$ 55 million is invested in the Galapagos Islands for renewable energy projects and represents 16% of electricity generation.
The initiatives are located on the inhabited islands, benefiting 25,000 inhabitants of the archipelago. Much of the financing of the works is non-refundable and comes from funds from the governments of Korea, Japan and Germany, Marco Valencia, Undersecretary of Generation and Transmission of the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Resources, told this newspaper.
The Zero Fossil Fuels initiative emerged in 2007 with the aim of replacing thermoelectric generation with renewable energy. One of the first projects was the San Cristóbal wind farm, also a pioneer in the country.
This can generate 2.4 MW. Valencia added that 1 MW photovoltaic panels are currently installed on that island. The project includes batteries that store energy so that the surpluses generated during daylight hours are used when there is no natural light.
On Santa Cruz Island, which includes the supply for Baltra, there is also a 9.5 MW wind and photovoltaic park. While in Isabela, in 2018 a hybrid system that includes a photovoltaic system (950 kW) and thermal generation with biofuel was inaugurated.
This year, 25% of energy on that island is renewable. The German Government invested around $ 15 million in the first stage of this project. Valencia said there will be an expansion to cover energy demand in the coming years.
Renewable energies reduce diesel consumption, lower operating costs and reduce pollution. In addition, the risks of fuel transfer from the mainland to the islands are avoided.
According to the National Government Master Electricity Plan, renewable energy will represent 60% of the generation in the islands until 2027 or 2028. However, the Undersecretary considers that the term could be shortened, thanks to private proposals. For example, an Ecuadorian company presented a proposal to install photovoltaic panels in Santa Cruz.
The launch for the tender of this initiative is in process. Another proposal has to do with the generation of geothermal energy. For that, it is necessary to drill the earth until it reaches a high pressure reservoir, where high temperature fluids are found, and that can be used to generate electricity. The advantage of this energy source is its reduced environmental impact, but it requires a lot of research and investments.
Agroindustrial waste is a great potential for power generation. The Isabela Island project, for example, uses oil extracted from the pine nut tree.
Additionally, a pilot project with the same input is developed in Floreana. Valencia said that an association collects the fruit from the tree and moves it to a processing center in Portoviejo to extract its oil. Later it is sent to the islands to produce electricity.
Patricio Díaz, manager of Industrial Ecology at Unacem Ecuador, explained that biofuel is beneficial because it is considered neutral in CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
Biomass can also be obtained from waste from the palm or wood industries. “You can generate opportunities for public-private partnerships,” Diaz said.