Claim: Wind turbines on Galapagos replace millions of liters of diesel since 2007


The release notes $10 million was spent on wind mills to save 2.3 million gallons of diesel. But the pump price for diesel in Ecuador is on the order of $0.29/gallon.

This means that $10 million was spent on windmills to save roughly $667,000 worth of diesel fuel. Such a bargain!

The media release is below.


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

World’s top utilities hand over project keys, chart path for Ecuador’s famously biodiverse archipelago to meet 70 percent of fast-rising energy needs with renewables



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 solar panels 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 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:

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.


8 thoughts on “Claim: Wind turbines on Galapagos replace millions of liters of diesel since 2007”

  1. Within the article is another interesting statistic, although one that requires a little calculation. The three wind turbines are each rated at 800 kilowatts and have generated 26 million kilowatt hours of electricity in eight years. At a 100% capacity factor those turbines were capable of generating 3 turbines x 800 kw x 8 years x 8760 hours per year =168,192,000 kilowatt hours. So, despite ‘constant daily winds’ they actually have a capacity factor of 15.4%. This is a dismally poor use of capital. Many fossil plants operate at capacity factors in excess of 90%, but may be limited by the demand for electricity. A 15% capacity factor would still be considered low except for low efficiency units used to provide peak power.

  2. How long do the windturbines last for. They will be spending another 10 million soon.

  3. One bird death is tragic.
    One million bird deaths is a statistic…
    And lots of food for the fishes.

  4. I see where this might be confusing, and I’m as skeptical as the next guy about wind power, but there, in the Galapagos, lies a perfect candidate for wind power generation. If you haven’t ever been there, you shouldn’t be criticizing the expenditures. It’s a good idea for these unique islands. The location where the turbines are situated are pretty good for capturing the almost constant daily winds. The infrastructure on these islands, in a gross understatement, is pretty primitive. Getting the fuel for vehicles and generators to shore isn’t all that easy. In some locations, it’s done by offloading barrels in some pretty shaky circumstances. San Cristobal is somewhat good with a protected harbor close to the town area, but other islands, like Floreana (population ~68), it’s dangerous. Isabela has a protected harbor (but very shallow due to lava fields), with a good pier, but the fuel needs to be offloaded in barrels and trucked the 1 mile into town.

  5. To expand, the Quinto pump price would have been $2.38 million plus shipping plus subsidy. The goal to reduce possible fuel spills is good and this could justify the change in this unique and fragile environment.

    Again, the true cost of the wind turbines and solar panels is not given, nor the total carbon footprint of the manufacturing, transportation and erection of these units. Without proper cost of both systems on a 20 year projection the claims in the article about environmental impact and carbon footprint are just speculation and not supported. The actual decrease in tanker hours in waters or even trips per year are not given. 2.5 million gallons would be approximately 168,000 barrels. This is only about 10% of average coastal tanker capacity.

  6. Various sites give various prices from $0.27 -0.29 per litre to $1.037 per gallon pump price. These prices are subsidized by the government, for Galapagos islands however have to add the extra shipping and storage costs.

    The further complication is neither figure gives the maintenance and storage costs of the alternative generation.

  7. It’s the same insanity that drives the Obama administration to force the Navy to spend more than $24/gal for biodiesel, then cuts necessary programs and draws down manpower because of “budgetary concerns”.

    And it’s not just the Navy buying fuel that is equivalent to the $200 toilet seat and the gold plated hammer.

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