IRENA conference highlights PV solutions for island tourism

The recent Renewable Energy Applications for Island Tourism conference in Cyprus showcased the growing potential for photovoltaic installations at island hotels and resorts.

Organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Cypriot government, the event, which took place May 29-30, presented a wide range of renewable energy applications and solutions for island nations saddled with the high costs of imported fossil fuel and isolated power grids but blessed clean energy potential from sunshine, wind and ocean.

Offering a cost overview for PV applications at island sites, IRENA’s Peter Journeay-Kaler listed a number of compelling reasons why PV was ideal for island tourism, the main one being the reduction in energy costs for hotels and resorts. Indeed, grid-connected tourism facilities could offset utility costs by 100% through PV, while remote off-grid hotels and resorts could offset diesel consumption by as much as 90%, Journeay-Kaler said. Air conditioning costs remain the biggest expenditure for island hotels and resorts.

Using Cyprus as an example, Journeay-Kaler said electricity rates in the country were at €0.22 per kilowatt hour compared to the cost of unsubsidized PV systems: €0.075 to €0.10 per kilowatt hour.

Another major factor not to be overlooked, he added, was the potential for "green marketing." The increasing use of clean energy sources that reduce air and water pollution and improve the environment can in itself attract an ever growing number of environmentally-conscious travelers and holidaymakers.

However, Journeay-Kaler cautioned that achieving savings through PV required "comprehensive planning," including the undertaking of energy efficient measures; solar resource assessments; grid or onsite generation analyses; hotel or resort demand analyses; system designs that minimize the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) and competitive international bidding processes.

Also taking part in the discussion, George Karagiorgis, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Frederick University in Cyprus, stressed the need for storage in view of the country’s limited isolated grid.

One way to store energy that could be ideal for islands is pumped storage, which is commonly used for load balancing, Karagiorgis said, adding that it was in his opinion the best storage solution for Cyprus.

Using PV-generated electricity during periods of low electrical demand, water can be pumped upward and later released onto turbine blades, which rotate to produce electricity, when demand increases.

Another possibility for islands is to convert electricity into hydrogen, Karagiorgis added.

Also briefly discussed at the conference was the EuroAsia Interconnector project, which would connect the power grids of Cyprus, Greece and Israel. The three countries signed a memorandum of understanding last year for the ambitious proposal, which is one of three energy infrastructure projects of common interest approved by the European Commission. The others include a pipeline from the East Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and a gas storage pipeline the would likewise connect Israel with Cyprus and Greece. The EuroAsia Interconnector is not expected to develop further than feasibility studies, however.

In addition to PV applications, the conference also examined such renewable energy solutions for desalination, electric vehicles and transport, using algae for biofuels and the increasing use of biofuels for air transportation.

Speakers included Alex Schroeder, technology deployment manager for fuels and vehicles at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Denver, Colorado, who discussed the use of electric vehicles in Hawaii, and Edison Yin, business development manager at BYD Europe, who offered a presentation on the use of BYD electric buses on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog.