Driving zero fossil fuels for Galápagos

Siemens’ hybrid power plant provides clean power for the UNESCO World Heritage Site
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Endangered ecosystem

Mitigating environmental risks for a unique habitat

While being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galápagos Islands still used a diesel-based power supply for hotels, restaurants, and 2,500 permanent residents. There were undeniable risks incurred by the delivery of the old power plant’s diesel fuel by ship from the mainland 1,000 kilometers away. In recent years, two big fuel loads were spilled during the transport by ship, fouling the island’s coastline and threatening the fragile ecosystem.

Hence, the Ecuadorian government started the “Zero Fossil Fuel Galápagos Initiative” that led to replacing the old diesel gensets with a pioneering solution based on 100% renewables. In 2016 the project began on the largest island of Galápagos, Isabela, with a new, hybrid power plant for the entire island.

 

The new plant is close to the seaside, resulting in a harsh environment with volcanic and seismic activities. Logistics were constrained by the naval transport capacity, and high environmental protection requirements in this nature reserve called for special precautions. The new power plant also had to be expandable for future demand development, which was considered right from the start of the project.

 

The Isabela Island Hybrid Power Plant project was handled by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Energy as project owner, Lahmeyer International as technical consultant, KfW as multilateral bank, Elecgalápagos as local utility, and Siemens as the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor who carried out the detailed engineering design of the project, procured all the equipment and materials necessary, and carried out construction. 

Smarter E award 2019 winner

We are very proud to have been championed as energy game changers with our ground-breaking hybrid solution on Isabela Island. The Galápagos project has been rewarded with a smarter E award 2019 in the “Outstanding Projects” category. The Smarter E is an innovation hub for new energy solutions and awards projects that are exemplary for global future applications, unique in their expression and realization, and have been fully completed between February 2017 and February 2019.

Power for 900 households

Inauguration of the plant on Isabela Island

After only ten months of planning and ten months of construction, the hybrid power plant installed by Siemens on the Galápagos Isabela Island was officially inaugurated in November 2018. The solution supplies almost 900 households on the by far largest Galápagos Island with electricity.

It’s all about the people

Creating a reliable, safe, and sustainable power supply for Isabela Island was only made possible by an international collaboration of dedicated people. Inhabitants of the island, authorities, financiers, and energy experts from Siemens all contributed to the big goal: zero fossil fuels for Galápagos.

Solution

An energy intelligent solution

The Isabela Island Hybrid Power Plant was designed to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by integrating renewable resources to address the energy challenges of Isabela Island. A special focus was put on designing the plant with complementing technologies to exploit local resources that provide the true basis for a sustainable energy future. Special care was taken with regards to the environmental impact of the used technology, considering the unique and sensitive natural environment the plant is located in.

Isabela Island Hybrid Power Plant at a glance

The solution engineered for the Isabela Island Hybrid Power Plant exploits different energy resources to create a system which is capable of fulfilling the requirements of the island’s power demand, which are mainly resilience, availability, and quality of supply as well as sustainability. To accomplish this complex goal, paired with the demand coverage requirements of the population of Isabela Island, a mix of local and imported resources from the continent was found: a system comprising a solar photovoltaic plant, an array of biofuel gensets, and an electrical energy storage system combined with a smart hybrid control system.

Implementation

Step-by-step to an environment-friendly power supply

Siemens accompanied the project from the beginning all the way to the commissioning and smooth operation. Thanks to extensive testing, optimization, and operator training everything worked as intended.

Project overview

The hybrid power plant on Isabela Island was developed specifically to meet the special requirements of Galápagos. This is true for any local energy solution from Siemens: They are designed specifically to meet each customer’s requirements. For the Isabela Island Hybrid Power Plant, Siemens coordinated generation, storage, and control systems to provide maximum security of supply and minimum harm to the environment.

Comprises designing all systems and components and planning the implementation. This included definition of the design basis using the requirements of the contract and the detailed technical specification, and definition of interfaces of the plant (internal and external) for final sizing and engineering of all systems and components. A digital 3D model was generated for layout planning, consistency check, and clash analysis, as well as finalization of layout within defined plant site boundaries. Iterative design steps were taken to design freeze and documentation.

Comprises vendor selection for components and their production and testing. All systems and components were specified for tendering to select the best-suited vendors for detailed design, production, and supply. This included also the civil works and installation services. Before shipment to the site, the entire system underwent a six-week integration and trial test at a mock-up near Hamburg, demonstrating the accurate operation of the plant. For the test, 5,000 liters of Jatropha fuel were delivered from Ecuador to Hamburg.

Covers the shipment of all components, tools, and materials from Asia, Europe, and USA to the Ecuador mainland, and from there to Isabela Island. Siemens made sure that all customs demands processed outside and within Ecuador were managed in a timely fashion, ensuring punctual deliveries to the construction site. The main challenge was finding suitable and approved vessels to sail the Galápagos Archipelago waters for delivery to Isabela Island. Special care and processes were developed for landing all materials at the beach, as no suitable quays are available on Isabela Island for heavy goods delivery. More than 40 containers with equipment were delivered to the site.

This phase includes the preparation of the site for construction works, construction of foundations, installation of components, and electrical/mechanical interconnection. The weathered lava formations with hidden caverns made the preparation of the site especially demanding. Meticulous planning was also essential as all tools and materials used on-site had to be imported from the continent. Siemens’ Zero Harm Policy was established at the groundbreaking and continued until handover of the plant, thus preventing any loss time accidents.

This phase covers commissioning and testing of each component and system until start of the entire plant. The intensive testing program especially developed with the mock-up in Hamburg prior to shipment to the island paid off, as all systems proved to be plug-and-play on-site, with only minor fine-tuning requirements. 

The final phase comprises continuous testing of the plant and training of the operator’s personnel until final handover to the customer. Special care was taken for flawless switchover from the existing obsolete diesel plant to the biofuel thermal plant as the first step. After proving stable and reliable operation, the hybrid renewable part and storage system of the plant was brought online. Very stable operation of the hybrid system confirmed the engineering efforts and effectiveness of the extensive testing and trials program.

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