PUERTO AYORA, ECUADOR – Japan and South Korea are helping Ecuador meet the electricity needs of the country’s nature-rich Galapagos Islands with power to be generated from renewable energy sources.
The Galapagos Islands, a group of volcanic islets in the Pacific about 1,000 km west of mainland Ecuador, are famous for a large number of endemic species, including giant tortoises and marine iguanas. They were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites in 1978.
Thermal power plants have supplied electricity on the islands, which have a population of around 30,000.
In 2001, a tanker spilled heavy fuel oil near the islands, which resulted in the death of a large number of marine iguanas. In response, the Ecuadorian government worked out a program to eliminate fossil fuel from the islands.
A senior official in Ecuador’s Electricity and Renewable Energy Ministry said the nation needs global help to realize the program, noting the country lacks both technology and funds.
Japan plans to start the work in the first half of this year, building a solar power plant of about 900 panels near an airport on Baltra Island for some ¥850 million.
The site is close to a wind power plant built with the help of the U.N. Development Program.
South Korea has already set up some 6,000 solar panels in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, adjacent to Baltra Island.
That power plant in Puerto Ayora is scheduled to go into operation in February.
On uninhabited Baltra Island, electricity for airport facilities has already been supplied by solar power. The power from the new panels will be transmitted to Santa Cruz Island through undersea power cables.
Thirteen of the Galapagos Islands are 10 sq. km or larger. The 30,000 residents live on four of them.
On Floreana Island, which has less than 200 people, 80 percent of the electricity need is covered by biodiesel fuels, while a solar power plant is also being built. On San Cristobal Island, a solar power plant has gone into operation to cover 30 percent of electricity needs there.