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The success of a global renewable energy project on Ecuador's Galapagos archipelago has given a major boost to the idea of sustainable development, according to a report.
Meeting 30 percent of local energy needs, the $10 million San Cristóbal Wind Project reduced the archipelago's greenhouse gas emissions and preserved critically endangered species, said a report released recently by the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP).
GSEP is a not-for-profit association of 11 of the world's foremost electricity firms.
The association said the initiative has displaced 8.7 million litres of diesel fuel and avoided 21,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
The project's three 51-metre-tall wind turbines and two sets of solar panels have supplied, on an average, 30 percent of the electricity consumed on San Cristóbal -- the archipelago's second-largest island in size and population -- since it went into operation in October 2007.
GSEP has recommended the project's expansion to further boost the renewable energy share to 70 percent.
The Galapagos, an archipelago of 19 islands in the Pacific Ocean 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, is home to an array of unique, exotic plant and animal species and famed as the site of Charles Darwin's research of the evolution of species by natural selection.
Although most islands are uninhabited and protected from development, a few have growing populations, economically supported by thriving tourism, which is capped at 200,000 annual visitors.
San Cristóbal, site of the provincial capital, is among the busiest islands with a bustling port and airport.
For decades, all of San Cristóbal's electricity came from diesel-fuelled power generating stations. But in January 2001, an oil spill threatened to destroy the irreplaceable heritage of plants, birds and marine life.
This led the government of Ecuador, the UN Development Programme and the GSEP to come together to start the public-private partnership project.
Each of the three turbines, designed to operate at a very low wind speed, has a capacity of 800 kilowatts. Over the first eight years, they have functioned a remarkable 92 percent of the time, and produced more than 26 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.
The project is eligible to participate in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), created under the Kyoto Protocol climate change treaty.
The CDM set up a market for Certified Emission Reduction certificates (CERs), each equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, which can be sold by countries that are below their emission targets to those that exceed them.
The project sold 11,000 CERs, for a total of $110,000, during its first four years, but because of low prices it has not participated in the market since then.