The windy isles

The windy isles EOLICSA
06 Aug
2016
The Galápagos islands take steps towards a fossil fuel-free future, as San Cristóbal’s wind and solar capacity is significantly expanded

On 16 January 2001, the tanker Jessica was delivering 240,000 gallons of diesel and intermediate fuel oil to a dispatch station on Baltra Island, Galápagos Islands, when it ran aground on Wreck Bay, San Cristóbal. Fuel began gushing from a tear in the ship’s hull, a serious threat to the sensitive ecosystem. Only the quick actions of the US coast guard and some favourable sea currents prevented the incident turning into a major environmental disaster.

It was the perfect illustration of the risks the islands were running on a regular basis, shipping large quantities of diesel over from the mainland in order to keep the then 18,000 (now 30,000) inhabitants’ lights on, and why, for several years, the government of Ecuador had been developing a project to begin construction of renewable energy sources on San Cristóbal, the second-largest of the islands. Completed in 2007, the San Cristóbal Wind Project (SCWP) now consists of three 51m-tall wind turbines and a pair of solar panels, which are estimated to have saved 8.7 million litres of diesel and 21,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the last eight years and currently supply 30 per cent of the island’s energy needs.

Wind farms will not be more detrimental to petrels than other existing man-made structures

Now plans are afoot for a major expansion to the current operation, with the ultimate goal being the elimination of fossil fuels from the energy supply entirely. The plan is to meet the anticipated 60 per cent increase in electricity demand by 2024 by erecting a fourth turbine, alongside greater solar capacity and a battery storage system.

One concern in relation to the SCWP is whether additional wind turbines could have an adverse effect on the isolated bird populations of the 19 islands, including the famous blue-footed booby and the endemic Galápagos petrel, listed as ‘critically endangered’ by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). A 2010 study by scientists affiliated with the Charles Darwin Foundation determined that ‘wind farms will not be more detrimental to petrels than other existing man-made structures’, largely thanks to the turbines being located on a hill known as El Tropezón, an agricultural area distant from nesting sites. No petrels are known to have been injured by wind turbines during the past eight years, however the study did propose the implementation of a monitoring program, to assess long-term effects.

This was published in the August 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Geophoto

Iceland is a sparsely populated country with one of the…

Wildlife

Baltic seals and fish-eating bird populations are increasing and could…

Oceans

The UN has committed to completely stopping plastic waste from…

Wildlife

The world’s most endangered marine mammal has just been thrown…

Climate

Sixty-two of the natural World Heritage Sites are now at…

Oceans

In February 2015, maritime lawyer and cold water swimmer Lewis…

Climate

Water, water may be everywhere, but as Marco Magrini discovers,…

Energy

A deeper look at Scotland’s recent decision to ban the…

Climate

The discovery of increasing levels of ozone-depleting compounds being emitted…

Geophoto

November is a dark, quiet month, but it also marks…

Energy

Could human waste one day be fuelling our homes and…

Geophoto

Every year, the LPOTY awards celebrate the best in Britain’s…

Climate

At the 23rd Convention of the Parties (COP) climate change…

Oceans

Knowing where past coral reefs existed is a crucial component…

Oceans

Numerous low-lying Pacific islands have disappeared under rising seas

Oceans

In this exclusive film for Geographical, see how an unusually…

Climate

Marco Magrini considers why the recent devastation caused by hurricanes…

Geophoto

Country borders are some of the most controlled environments on…

Wildlife

Nature reserves and protected areas in Germany have lost 76…

Oceans

An investigation into shark fins and ray gills sold in…