Around the world there are thousands of small islands. Some remote. Others close to the mainland. Some are inhabited with good levels of development. Others less so.
One thing all islands have in common is a need to be self sufficient in a way that is sustainable.
This may sound simple enough. However development of small island communities face a different set of challenges than those that may be seen on the mainland. What may seem like the optimum solution may not in fact be sustainable.
The first challenge is simply the geography of the island. Many small islands are volcanic in nature with very steep terrain. Therefore although the average sunlight hours may be high or the island is nice and windy there just may not be enough usable space to install a system that would generate sufficient power to be worthwhile.
Faced with a lack of local resources, many islands import fossil fuel from the mainland to generate their power. This may seem like an easy option, but it is expensive and could lead to dependence not to mention putting pressure on local environments and already fragile island ecosystems.
Islands often have small populations. Rarely do governing officials hold their positions full time. Many have other jobs, such as fishermen or farmers, to support themselves and their families. Often with little or no formal education too. On paper installing a fancy renewable energy facility may look like the best option for generating power for the island, but in reality without anyone willing or able to manage and operate it could prove not to be viable as a long term solution.
Many island communities are located in developing countries therefore may have very limited access to the capital needed to initiate energy projects of this nature.
So how can these small islands develop long term, cost effective solutions that can be operated and managed by locals?
This is where Olwg can help
At Olwg we can explore optimal development solutions with urgency and uncertainty in mind to support quick decisions. We use our in-house models to quickly examine a broad range of competing concepts or sensitivities. This helps us demonstrate the ‘correct’ answer between the options. We use visual analytics to aid the understanding between parameters.
Over the past few weeks we have also been studying the islands that are part of the small island organisation, SMILO, to better understand the the potential for sustainable development not only in terms of energy but also economically feasible and workable for the local island community.
We are developing a Power BI model to summarise information about each island an its main features.
This model can then be used to make more informed recommendations as to what we think may be the best renewable solutions to suit each island; be that solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tidal or something else entirely.
Based on these recommendations we can then use use our in house screening tool to quickly calculate the lifecycle costs of each option to determine whether it is likely to be economically viable for the island to move forward in the next stage of development.
Some of the energy and sustainability issues facing islands are the same no matter the location. Therefore over the coming weeks we’ll expand the model to include more islands. With and estimated over 18,000 islands world wide, 6,200 of which are in the British Isles archipelago and 135 in the Thames alone the scope for Olwg to help islands become more sustainable is limitless!