Greek island runs totally on wind and solar

Millie HennickAugust 20, 2018693

Greek island runs totally on wind and solar

Renewable energy is a much-appreciated solution to a difficult problem for the Greek island of Tilos. When the blades of its 800-kilowatt wind turbine start turning, the island will become the first in the Mediterranean to run exclusively on wind and solar power. The seahorse-shaped Greek island between Rhodes and Kos has a winter population of 400. But that number swells to as many as 3,000 people in the summer, putting a strain on its dilapidated power supply. This summer, technicians are conducting the final tests on a renewable replacement system that is slated to be fully rolled out later this year. It will allow Tilos to run exclusively on high-tech batteries recharged by a wind turbine and a solar park.

Island is a protected nature reserve

Tilos is a seahorse-shaped Greek island between Rhodes and Kos popular with hikers and bird watchers, and most of it is now a protected nature reserve. This summer, technicians are conducting the final tests on a system that will allow Tilos to run exclusively on high-tech batteries recharged by a wind turbine and a solar park. The European Commission says Tilos will be the first autonomous renewable green island in the Mediterranean. It plans to display the project as a blueprint for other small islands across the European Union that have limited grid connection to the mainland. The EU has funded most of the project, providing 11 million euros ($16.5 million Cdn) of the total 13.7 million-euro ($20.5-million) cost.

"The innovation of this program and its funding lies in the batteries — the energy storage — that's what's innovative," project manager Spyros Aliferis said. "The energy produced by the wind turbines and the photovoltaics will be stored in batteries so that this energy can be used for the grid when there is demand."

Solar batteries are a huge factor

The batteries store power during sunny and windy conditions, releasing it during periods of heavy demand and lower production.  Named TILOS — Technology Innovation for the Local Scale Optimum Integration of Battery Energy Storage — the project uses a prototype battery system that improves storage of the excess energy generated until it's needed. To be effective, it required an overhauled grid with smart meters installed in homes and businesses to calculate times of peak demand.

Routine blackouts the norm

Currently, Tilos gets its energy from an underwater cable that runs from Kos to the island of Nisyros and on to Tilos. That creates an unreliable, outage-prone service that routinely breaks appliances and has forced many businesses to rely on diesel generators. While lacking the dazzle of other Greek islands like Mykonos and Santorini, Tilos — a 14-hour ferry ride from the mainland — is a quiet vacation spot that sees an average of 13,000 visitors a year. It's known as a green island, popular with hikers and bird watchers, and most of it is now a protected nature reserve. Eliminating the burning of fossil fuels adds the potential long-term ecological health of the island and nearby ocean. Mayor Maria Karmasa saw a green energy system as the island's natural next step.

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