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Galapagos Islands Airport: Solar and Wind Power

Shortage of resources is among the key environmental concerns faced by humanity at the moment. With the current level of usage, it is likely that the supplies of oil and natural gas will reduce dramatically in the next few decades. Moreover, the extraction and use of oil pose a significant threat to the environment, contaminating the atmosphere, soil, and water. Thus, scientists and business owners began to explore the benefits of renewable energy, including solar and wind power. For example, Galapagos Islands airport became the first international airport to run entirely on solar and wind power (Hutchinson). This case study reviews the project by providing a clear summary and discusses the environmental causes and consequences of the Seymour Airport project.

Project Summary

Project Description

Seymour Airport is located on the island of Baltra. It was opened in 2012 and handles approximately 300,000 passengers annually (Kable). The airport was previously known as the Seymour Island Airfield, used by the U.S. air forces during the World War II, and then the government of Ecuador afterward (Kable). The project for the development of a new international airport in place of the old one was initiated in 2008 when the government chose Corporación América to build, operate, and manage the site (Kable). Due to the growing environmental concern and the desire to promote the project, a decision was made to ensure that the construction has a minimal effect on the surrounding areas and that the airport is sustainable.

Thus, about three-quarters of the materials used to build the new building of the Seymour Airport came from the old terminal (Kable). Most importantly, however, the project involved the use of solar panels and wind turbines to avoid the need for fossil fuel (Kable). To ensure that the solar and wind power is sufficient, the company was forced to reduce energy consumption by almost a half. This was achieved by further technological advancements. For example, a bioclimatic design allowed to avoid the need for air conditioning throughout the year, despite intense heat during the summer months. Moreover, engineers were able to optimize the distribution of natural light and ventilation to achieve comfortable conditions during the day and night, thus further reducing the need for energy (Kable). Overall, the technologies used allowed the airport to rely solely on solar and wind power, making it the first green airport in the world.

Parties Involved

The project involved three key parties: the Ecuadorian government, Corporación América, and ECOGAL, a company that currently operates the airport. In addition, the project also influenced other stakeholders, including the local community, travelers, and airlines.

Project Components

The key component of the project is the engineering decisions used to reduce energy consumption and allow for the reliance on solar and wind power. Resources management and operations are also significant parts of the project.

Environmental Implications

The primary environmental implication of the project is the reduction of oil use. According to Dove, 90% of the world transportation relies on oil, which leads to environmental problems, such as emissions and economic problems, caused by growing oil prices (1). Oil is toxic to both humans and animals and can cause severe damage to the ecosystem (Dove 1). The Galapagos Islands are no exception. The archipelago consists of a group of 19 large islands and about 100 small islets and is considered by UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site due to its cultural and scientific importance (Dove 2). Diesel fuel represents the main source of energy in the Galapagos, as people use it to drive cars and travel across the ocean (Dove 2). However, the use of diesel fuel can be particularly damaging to the ocean. According to Dove, diesel fuel spills can harm marine animals, thus disrupting the ecosystem (2). The project of Seymour Airport is thus part of the Ecuadorian government’s continuous efforts to reduce traditional fuel consumption in the Galapagos Islands. The use of solar and wind energy has a lot of benefits, although there are also some implications.

Solar Power

As opposed to fossil fuel, solar energy does not create dangerous emissions and thus helps to prevent negative effects of the airport operations on the environment. According to Shahan, the use of solar power helps to slow the process of global warming, as it can create the same volumes of electricity without producing air pollution leading to the greenhouse effect. Furthermore, reduced emissions lead to a higher air quality, which has a significant impact on the growth of plant and animal populations in the area. According to Millstein, Wiser, Bolinger, and Barbose, the use of wind and solar energy in the U.S. resulted in 3,000-12,700 avoided premature mortalities between 2007 and 2015 (1).

Moreover, solar power is more stable and secure, as it uses daylight in energy production. Stability of power, in turn, helps to prevent errors and disasters affecting the ecosystem. Another notable impact of solar power is economic; as stated by Shahan, solar power provides important economic benefits by reducing the price of electricity. The money saved due to the use of solar power can be invested into sustainable technologies needed for future development of the airport. One important drawback of solar energy, however, is that it usually requires being supplemented by additional technologies. Because the sun does not shine during the night, solar panels can only produce energy during the day, which might not be sufficient to fulfill the needs of all structures considering the use of solar energy (Shahan).

Wind Power

Similarly, wind power has an important effect on the environment. Like solar power, wind power is a clean source of electricity that does not contribute to air pollution or produce greenhouse gases (USDE). Wind energy can be produced throughout the day as it does not rely on sunlight, which allows it to be effective in complementing solar energy sources. As noted by the USDE, wind turbines can be built on existing farms, not just on wind power plants. Thus, the use of wind energy allows farmers and local residents to avoid using fossil fuel for heating and domestic tasks. The use of fossil fuel is among the key environmental concerns in rural areas, as it leads to severe air pollution and impairs the health of people and animals living in the area. There are, however, some potential challenges and barriers to the use of wind power sources. First of all, according to the USDE, “Good wind sites are often located in remote locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed.” This requires the installation of transition lines, which could be costly and damaging to the environment if traditional sources of energy are used in the construction process. Secondly, the blades of turbines and the noise created by their operation might impact animals and birds living in the area (USDE).

Conclusion

Overall, the project is likely to positively affect the environment on the island due to the numerous benefits of solar and wind energy. Moreover, the project provides a useful example to other regions that are also willing to reduce their environmental footprint. Although further adjustments might be required to avoid the challenges of solar and wind energy, Seymour Airport is a successful project that contributes to the government’s efforts in reducing the use of fossil fuel.

Works Cited

Dove, Sean. “Sustainable Energy in the Galapagos.” Bridges, vol. 8, no. 1, 2014: 1-9.

Hutchinson, John. ” Galapagos Islands Airport Becomes World’s First to Be Run ENTIRELY on Solar and Wind Power.” Daily Mail, 2015, Web.

Kable. “Seymour Airport, Baltra, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.” Airport Technology Com, n.d., Web.

Millstein, Dev, et al. “The Climate and Air-Quality Benefits of Wind and Solar Power in the United States.” Nature Energy, vol. 2, no. 9, 2017: pp. 1-13.

Shahan, Zachary. “Advantages & Disadvantages Of Solar Power.” Clean Technica. 2013, Web.

United States Department of Energy (USDE). “Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy.” Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, n.d., Web.