Azores project key for island microgrid credibility

Gorona del Viento: poor performance means other island microgrids are under scrutiny. Photo: www.animam.photography.

Gorona del Viento: poor performance means other island storage projects are under scrutiny. Photo: www.animam.photography.

By Jason Deign

A project on Graciosa, Azores, has become key for the credibility of island-based storage following concerns over another plant more than 1,500km away.

The Younicos project on Graciosa is set to go live within weeks amid speculation that another attempt to power an island off renewables, in El Hierro, Canary Islands, has failed to meet expectations.

El Hierro’s Gorona del Viento plant, which combines an 11.5MW wind farm with a pumped hydro storage system, was launched with much fanfare in 2014. Its initial aim was to replace 80% of diesel generation needed for the island grid.

Last month, the plant operator revealed the EUR€82m Gorona del Viento had allowed El Hierro to run continuously off nothing but renewable energy for 55 hours.

And last week Gorona del Viento said the plant supplied 67% of the island’s power throughout July and had set a new record of 76 hours with 100% renewable production.
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Could microgrids save lives on remote islands?

Island energy storage: could islanded microgrid systems have helped in the Vanuatu cyclone Pam disaster?

Island energy storage: could islanded microgrid systems have helped in the Vanuatu cyclone Pam disaster? Photo credit: UNICEF Pacific

Upcoming debate on energy storage in microgrids was given a sense of urgency over the weekend as Cyclone Pam tore across Vanuatu in the Pacific.

As the devastated island nation issued a plea for international help, one of the questions facing the government and aid workers was how to restore power… and whether current fossil-fuelled generation sources should be replaced by renewable energy.

Like many island nations, Vanuatu has traditionally got most of its power from imported fossil fuels.

In 2010, for example, the nation’s main utility, the GDF Suez subsidiary Union Electrique du Vanuatu Limited (UNELCO), generated 68.7GWh of power using 14.3 megalitres of imported diesel along with 251 kilolitres of biofuel from coconut oil.

This reliance on imported fuel was already creating problems for the country before this weekend’s catastrophe. “The Government has been concerned for a number of years over the high cost of electricity,” noted the International Renewable Energy Agency.
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Islands of energy storage

Island energy storage projects offer a test bed for the systems and technologies that might proliferate on the mainland on a much larger scale. Photo credit: El Hierro renewable energy project, ABB energy storage systems

Island energy storage projects offer a test bed for the systems and technologies that might proliferate on the mainland on a much larger scale. Photo credit: El Hierro renewable energy project, ABB energy storage systems

Energy storage for island communities has been in the news a lot recently. Hawaii has been seeking out up to 200MW of storage, while El Hierro in the Canaries is set to become the first island to rely entirely on wind and pumped hydro power next month.

Meanwhile, the millionaire’s playground of Necker Island in the Caribbean and several more are looking to invest in various technologies that store energy. The reasons are hardly surprising.

Islands are usually isolated from large mainland grids and shipping or in some cases even flying in diesel to generate energy is expensive. As a result, island-dwellers, such as those in Hawaii and the Caribbean, suffer high energy bills.
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