This is the summer of exciting initiatives and new, hopeful directions for the future of the Galapagos Islands. In March, Ecuadorian President signed a decree to create a protected marine sanctuary of 15,000 square miles around the islands. Following the incredible accomplishment of protecting marine ecosystems, the Galapagos National Park will be managed by the newly appointed Africa Besones. Historically, Darwin’s discovery of adaptability as a means of survival catapulted the Galapagos Islands to everlasting fame. The defining characteristic of adaptability continues to permeate life on the Galapagos Islands.
While the 19 islands making up the Galapagos are mostly uninhabited and protected from development, four of the islands are inhabited by humans. Energy demands on those islands continue to rise with a growing tourism economy and a bustling port on San Cristobal, the provincial capital. Until now, “all of San Cristobal’s electricity came from diesel-fuelled generating stations.” The disastrous 570,000 litres oil spill in 2001 propelled the city into action when they narrowly avoided an environmental catastrophe. With international support, San Cristobal launched an effort to implement a renewable energy plan.
In order to avoid future environmental catastrophes, whether it be from an oil spill or climate change impacts, San Cristobal decided to take the necessary steps to protect their their UNESCO World Heritage Site. With the help of Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP), San Cristobal is aiming for 70 percent renewable energy use very soon, with an ultimate goal of zero net fossil fuel use in the future. They are well on their way to meeting this goal. It was recently reported in Newsweek that “Between 2007 and 2015, three 157-foot wind turbines have supplied, on average, 30 percent of the electricity consumed on San Cristóbal, replacing 2.3 million gallons of diesel fuel and avoiding 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.”
This past May, GSEP published a performance summary and expansion report for the renewable energy project. The report details an exciting expansion plan to completely overhaul diesel systems, install more solar panels and additional wind turbine units. The future of the Galapagos Islands is a bright one and will continue to be with the embodiment of adaptability and progressive change.