Award for renewable energy project in the Galápagos Islands

Two workers wearing safty helmets cleaning solar panels on a rooftop

Physic nut (Jatropha curcas); Photo: Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0.

The Renewable Energy Resources for the Galápagos Islands (ENERGAL) project has been honoured with an ARE Award from the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE). The award was presented at a ceremony in Lisbon on 22 March 2017. ENERGAL was judged the Best Off-Grid Project in the Multilateral/International Organisations category from among 60 contenders.

The ENERGAL project promoted the use of jatropha oil as a biofuel for power generation on the Galápagos islands of Floreana and Isabela. Soraya Villaroya from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and Dr Georg Gruber from the Vereinigte Werkstätten für Pflanzenöltechnologie (VWP – association of workshops for vegetable oil technology), who were involved in the project as implementing partners, accepted the award on behalf of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Dr Georg Gruber (left) and Soraya Villaroya (second from left) accepted the award. Photo: Miguel Baltazar.

From 2012 to 2015, ENERGAL, which was funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI), advised the Government of Ecuador on the development of a comprehensive renewable energy package for the islands of Floreana and Isabela, focusing on the replacement of fossil fuels with vegetable oil. The oil comes from the physic nut (Jatropha curcas), which is native to Ecuador, where it is planted as hedging. The jatropha nuts are sourced from the Ecuadorian mainland, where a mobile oil press – commissioned within the project framework in 2012 – is in operation. Small-scale farmers can now earn an additional income from the sale of the nuts, which would otherwise go to waste. A jatropha producers’ cooperative has also been set up.

The project supported the conversion of the electricity supply to a hybrid system which utilises generators that run on jatropha oil in combination with other renewable energies such as wind and solar. The aim was to substitute diesel and its derivatives with biofuels for electricity generation on the islands. With success: since the end of the project, two converted generators that run on jatropha oil have, in combination with a photovoltaic plant, been providing the people on Floreana with electricity from renewable energy.

The project is part of the Ecuadorian Government’s Zero Fossil Fuels on the Galapagos Islands initiative, which aims to fully convert the archipelago’s energy supply to renewable energies by 2020. More energy efficiency, use of wind and solar power, and the replacement of fossil fuels by pure vegetable oils play a key role in this context. The ARE Award was conferred in recognition of IKI-funded ENERGAL’s integrated and sustainable approach and attests to the continued positive development of Ecuador’s energy sector beyond the project term.