Tourism in the Galapagos is about to get a little greener as authorities plan to launch solar powered catamaran service between Baltra and Santa Cruz islands.
The Genesis Solar, which was delivered from the mainland last week, can accommodate 42 passengers and is expected to make 10 trips a day across the Itabaca Channel, which lies between the archipelago’s main airport on Baltra and the town of Puerto Ayora, the islands’ most populous, on Santa Cruz. The boat will travel at an average speed of five knots and each crossing is expected to take about 10 minutes .
The new catamaran, which is equipped with photovoltaic panels and powered by electric motors, will replace a diesel-powered barge that reportedly consumes 4,200 gallons of fuel and emits 38 tons of CO2 annually.
Last September, we reported on a new solar powered water taxi in the islands that had been developed by WWF and the Galapagos National Park and how authorities hoped it would help demonstrate the feasibility of solar powered transportation in the archipelago.
Unfortunately, the use of fossil fuels in the Galapagos has ramifications that go far beyond the issue of emissions. Fuel must be transported 600 miles from the mainland, which poses a serious environmental hazard for the sensitive ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands. In 2001, the oil tanker Jessica ran aground near Wreck Bay and eventually spilled 175,000 gallons of diesel and fuel oil into the sea.