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The Galapagos Islands Swap Diesel for Wind Power

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In 2001, a tanker carrying diesel fuel struck a reef and spilled its contents off the shore of San Cristobál, an island in the Galápagos chain. Only miraculous wind and tidal currents kept the oil at bay and pushed it out to sea. The risk of oil reaching the fragile ecosystems of the Galápagos Islands chain, a UNESCO World Heritage site, spurred the government of Ecuador to explore environmentally friendly power sources.

The government partnered with the UN Foundation, the UN Development Program, and eight of the world’s largest utilities, including American Electric Power, to develop an innovative renewable energy project that would cut diesel imports by half to the Galápagos.

“A lot of countries don’t have the ability to defend and protect these sites as much as possible,” says Melinda Kimble, UN Foundation senior vice president. “Leadership on sites like these can give people options for a clean energy future.”

Home to thousands of species of plants, animals and fish, many of which cannot be found anywhere else on earth, the Galápagos Islands are one of the most well-known and endangered concentrations of biodiversity in the world. 

The San Cristobál Galápagos Wind project was finalized in 2008 with the dedication of a 2.4 megawatt wind farm that is also generating “certified emission reductions” under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. The project is part of the government of Ecuador’s larger plan to wean all of the Galápagos Islands off of fossil fuels by 2015.