Alternative energy in Galapagos – the only solution to reducing the risk of diesel spills?

Every year, about about 5 million litres (1.3M US gallons) of diesel are shipped 1000km from the mainland to generate electricity in the Galapagos island (this doesn't include the diesel to power ships and vehicles).  This is a risk not only for a potential oil spill disaster in the islands, but also for chronic pollution arising from minor spills and leakage.   It is in the interests of everyone, both residents and visitors alike, to encourage the reduction of diesel imports to the islands.

This can be done in 2 ways:

1)       Finding alternative energy sources, and

2)       Using less energy.

Having lived in Galapagos for 4 years, and having visited frequently in  the past few years, CNH Tours notes that a great deal of effort is invested in option 1- finding alternative sources of energy.   For instance, three multi-million dollar wind powered generators (largely donated) were installed on San Cristobal Island and  have been in operation since 2008, producing up to 31% of electrical generation needs on that island (when the wind is blowing of course!).

Now, Floreana island, the smallest inhabited island with about 200 inhabitants is about to double its solar electrical generation plant, further reducing its reliance on diesel powered generation.  This is happening with the support of a $200,000 grant from World Wildlife Fund.   Not bad news.

While CNH Tours is happy to see efforts made at finding alternative sources of energy, we feel that the conservation side of the equation is insufficiently addressed.    In particular, a much cheaper public information campaign, accompanied by minimum building code standards, would help reduce electrical energy needs by significant amounts.    Given the millions donated to Galapagos to install "media friendly" alternative energy sources in Galapagos, hardly anything is done on the less glamorous conservation side of things.   Yet much can be done.

Galapagos can be very hot, and air conditioning is likely a major draw on electrical energy.   Yet, wandering through town, one can't help noticing that more and more people rely on AC, yet windows might be open, or badly installed, there is no insulation on roofs, slipshod construction standards result in houses that are far from being air tight (coming from wintry climates, we know how important that is!), doors are left open - it's a common sight.

CNH Tours encourages donors and local governmental authorities to invest more effort in conservation.   CNH Tours would like to see just 10% of the funds spent on expensive alternative energy projects invested on efforts to reduce electricity consumption - and we are ready to bet that on a dollar for dollar basis, conservation work would get a much bigger bang for your buck than alternative energy projects.

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