Aldabra adopts solar energy


23-July-2012

Friday's presentation

A €500,000 project – which took four years to complete – has given the island community a photovoltaic system which uses energy from the sun to power the entire place’s needs.

The Aldabra World Heritage site is now home to Seychelles’ largest off-grid renewable energy system, and the atoll has been supplied with almost 100% solar energy.

A presentation was given on Friday afternoon by the Seychelles Island Foundation’s (SIF) project officer Christina Quanz, where she outlined the project to stakeholders, who included non-governmental organisations, government departments and SIF former board members.

Led by the SIF, the project started in 2008 with an energy audit supplied by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC). Initial action involved replacing worn out equipment, old computers still using cathode ray screens, old deep freezers and refrigerators, as well as old air-conditioning systems. 

The new electricity requirement was calculated and in 2010, the IBC solar company was contacted.
Manufactured in Europe, the photovoltaic (PV) modules of the solar generators are rated at 25kWp and is expected to produce 38, 000 kWh of electricity per year, meet at least 90% of Aldabra’s electricity needs and have an expected life-span of 20 years.

With the total cost of the project being around €500, 000, the SIF estimates that the cost will be entirely offset by money saved on fuel cost and fuel transportation in only eight years of operation.

Previously the island had been using traditional diesel generators and the SIF had to ship fuel at very high costs to Aldabra in barrels, which were delivered to the beach and rolled up to the storage area, a very risky business as it posed a hazard of diesel leakage onto the atoll.

The new PV system was commissioned in April this year and since then has fully supported the atoll’s needs, including the research station (including air conditioning of six offices, a scientific laboratory and freezing utilities in the island’s shop, 12 staff houses and even water pumps).

Equipment like air conditioning does not run on the batteries, but rather straight from the electricity provided by the solar panels. At night the batteries provide all the electricity needed although air-con systems are switched off by then.

The new system also has a web-based monitoring programme, where system performance and electricity consumption are continuously recorded and are displayed on a homepage allowing close monitoring, better maintenance and troubleshooting assistance by the IBC Solar company in the event of malfunctions.

Miss Quanz said the company has also given a 20-year guarantee on the system, and one of the other advantages is that the generators, which are placed in sound-proof housing, are also very quiet.

“I think that other islands should definitely install such a system, as it is the way forward, and despite the high investment costs, will pay off in the long run,” she said.

“Although it might be rather difficult for nature islands to come up with the investment money, it is easier for hotel islands to do so, and can be a real plus for them, especially to tourists who appreciate islands running on green energy.”

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