More and more islands are refusing to be held hostage by imported petroleum. From rich Hawaii to poor Dominican Republic to tiny Tokelau to historic Alcatraz, renewable energy is beginning to set islands free. Now add the Republic of Seychelles to the list.
The 115-island nation in the Indian Ocean has its first large-scale renewable energy project, an eight-turbine, 6-megawatt wind farm that spans two islands. Three kilometers of subsea cables move the energy produced by the turbines, which developer Masdar says are designed to work well in low-to-medium wind speeds and to be “resilient to corrosion from the salt and humidity of the ocean.”
So what do these wind turbines mean for Seychelles? Masdar, the Abu Dhabi renewable energy company, said the Port Victoria Wind Farm “accounts for 8 percent of Mahé Island’s energy capacity – the main island of Seychelles – which is home to 90 percent of the country’s population.”
The turbines, then, will take a bit out of the Seychelles’ fuel purchases, which had accounted for a quarter of its net imports. The country has a goal of meeting 15 percent of its power generation needs by 2030.
For the Seychelles this is about improving its energy access and security, about being less subject to the whipsaw of oil prices.
There’s also a moral component to island nations turning to emissions free energy. Thanks to “The Island President,” Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives, the wider world knows that climate change is a slowly unfolding catastrophe for many island nations. These island nations don’t have it in their own power to turn the tide on that front – their energy consumption is a drop in the ocean of global energy demand.
Yet the more these island nations can turn to renewables, the stronger their moral foundation in seeking change from the big powers in Asia, Europe and the Americas. At this point, it can be an expensive undertaking for what are often poor countries, but a little help – the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development managed and financed the Seychelles wind farm.