Biofuel for the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their vast wealth of species. These islands are protected as a National Park and recognised by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, and yet they are having to contend with major environmental pressures. On the inhabited islands electricity is generated predominantly using diesel fuel, which is brought by tanker from the mainland. Tanker accidents and fossil fuel spills have already repeatedly damaged the archipelago's ecosystems. That is why the Ecuadorian government has set itself the target of converting the Galapagos Islands' energy supply totally to renewable energies by 2015. In particular, fossil fuels are to be replaced by plant oil grown in an environmentally sound and socially equitable manner. The oil obtained from Jatropha curcas (the physic nut), a species native to Ecuador, fulfils these criteria.

On 8 February 2011, amid great media attention and in the presence of many high-ranking guests, two generators were inaugurated on the island of Floreana. These are powered exclusively by Jatropha oil. The technology, expertise and a major proportion of the funding for this has been provided by Germany: VWP (Vereinigte Werkstätten für Pflanzenöltechnologie) converted Deutz generators to run on pure Jatropha oil. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) provided the finance as part of its International Climate Initiative (ICI). The generators, together with a solar installation constructed with funds from Spanish cooperation, now make the island of Floreana the first, and as yet only, island in the world to obtain 100 percent of its energy supply from renewable sources.

The ICI project carried out by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) also has a social dimension: smallholders in the poor coastal province of Manabi pick the fruits for oil extraction from the Jatropha bushes already growing there and process them into plant oil. In this way the people have a new, sustainable source of income. The fruit is not suitable for human consumption and is not taking up agricultural land needed to grow food. 

The commissioning of the generators represents an important step towards a low-carbon and cost-effective energy supply in the region. It serves as a model for further action and showcases the successful use of German innovative technology.