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Island Nations Poised to Reap Billions in Benefits Through Renewables

Perhaps one of the silver linings of the climate crisis is the continued emergence of innovations from both the private and public sectors to avert impending disaster while creating new growth and development opportunities.

As the world actively looks to options and alternatives to fossil-fueled energy, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) just published reports on the opportunities for small island nations to achieve substantial economic benefit from renewable sources. Fiji, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu could easily meet their energy needs by lowering electricity costs and boosting ‘energy security’ and ‘energy independence,’ according to IRENA. All three nations currently depend on importing fossil fuels, which hampers economic independence and development.

“The falling cost of renewable energy offers them an opportunity to rethink their energy strategies, develop policies and build institutions that would create jobs, bring power to those currently without and deliver more reliable electricity services, all while combating climate change,” said IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin. ”Renewable energy is no longer just the best choice socially and environmentally, it is also the best choice economically for many countries in many parts of the world.”


The Worldwatch Institute agrees. The Institute just presented a roadmap of recommendations to government officials in the Dominican Republic for transitioning to a national grid 85 percent powered by renewables, to decrease the average cost of electricity by 40 percent by 2030. The island nation currently depends on fossil fuel imports for 86 percent of its electricity needs.

The Worldwatch report asserts that renewables could save the country up to $25 billion by 2030, create up to 12,500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 3 million tons annually; all it would take is 15-20 medium-sized wind farms (60 megawatts each) to provide half of the DR’s current power demand.

"Transitioning to a sustainable system is in the country's best long-term interest," said Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch and director of the study. "The study demonstrates that an alternative pathway exists, one that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. The country is now at a crucial point where it must implement targeted measures in order to achieve the full benefits of a sustainable energy system for generations to come."


Meanwhile, it turns out large wind turbines installed under large bridges and in existing viaducts could also be a significant source of alternative power around the world. Researchers at Kingston University in London are using the Juncal Viaduct in the Spanish island of Gran Canaria as a model to build and position wind turbines under such bridges to generate power for rural and urban areas.

Published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, the research is being promoted by Canarian company ZECSA.

Using computer simulations of air resistance in relation to wind-configurations, the team determined the best installation would be two medium-sized turbines rather than one large one, finding that two turbines would produce 0.5MW.

“This would be the equivalent to 450-500 homes’ average consumption,” said Oscar Soto, a researcher at Kingston. “This kind of installation would avoid the emission of 140 tons of CO2 per year, an amount that represents the depuration effect of about 7,200 trees.”


Halfway around the globe, abandoned golf courses could be a key to energy independence for the island of Japan, which is transforming dormant golf courses into solar energy plants. Last week, Kyocera and its partners announced they had started construction on a 23-megawatt solar plant project in the Kyoto prefecture, scheduled to be operational in 2017, and generate more than 26,000 megawatt hours annually, enough to power nearly 8,100 average local households.

In May, the electronics giant announced an even larger project slated for next year in the Kagoshima prefecture, on land earmarked for a golf course three decades ago but never realized. The 92-megawatt plant, slated for 2018, will have more than 340,000 solar modules generating nearly 100,000 megawatt hours per year, enough to power about 30,500 households.

Meanwhile, Tokyo-based competitor Pacifico Energy is building a 42-megawatt solar plant on an old golf course in the Okayama Prefecture in partnership with GE Energy Financial Services.

Struggling to revamp its energy strategy following the Fukushima disaster, Japan is striving to double its renewable energy sources by 2030. Kyocera is also solar power plants that float on water.

Abandoned golf courses could help meet the rising need for renewables Stateside, too - similar plans are on the drawing board in New York, Minnesota and other U.S. states.

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