Graciosa is latest island to go green with 70% renewable power

One of the nine islands in the Azores Archipelago, Portugal, has become the site of a renewable energy revolution – the latest in an international trend in green energy islands.

Graciosa, the third smallest island of the Azores with a population of just over 4700, has ditched fossil fuels for a combination of wind energy, solar power and a battery grid storage system.

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The Azores archipelago is a group of nine islands in the Atlantic Ocean, which are part of the Portuguese Republic and lie some 850 miles from the continental mainland.

Because of their distance from the continent, the Azores islands have typically been reliant on diesel for generating energy. This comes at a cost of around €2m per year.

Read more: Hawaiian island gets battery grid storage

However, Graciosa is now transitioning away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible as part of the Smart Islands Initiative, a programme which aims to promote sustainability in island nations.  Graciosa has turned from diesel generators to renewable energy as its primary source, having installed all-new energy infrastructure:

  • 3.2 MW battery storage system
  • 4.5 MW wind farm
  • 1 MW solar panel array

The new installation means that Graciosa – which means “graceful” in Portuguese – is capable of generating 100% renewable energy at full capacity, with diesel generators on stand-by for back-up when weather conditions are less favourable.

Due to the location of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, the archipelago experiences good, year-round insolation (exposure to sunlight) and favourable wind speeds.

These conditions mean that Graciosa is in a good position to generate more and more of its energy from renewable sources.

All of the islands in the Azores Archipelago are volcanic – the archipelago sits on the Terceira Rift, which divides the Eurasian and African tectonic plates – and so there is also the potential for geothermal energy to play a role in the energy mix of these islands. As tidal energy technologies develop, they could begin to feature, too.

They’re not the only island to capitalise on their favourable location and weather conditions – many other islands are also using renewables to power themselves forwards:

The remainder of mainland Portugal isn’t trailing behind, it’s worth noting, frequently lasting for days without using any fossil fuels whatsoever.

For consistency, this approach extends from the country’s mainland to the island regions of the Azores and Madeira, which are

Read more: Tidal turbine smashes generation records

The Graciosa project was carried out by the Danish company HowardScott, a specialist renewable energy firm which also has plans to help the island decarbonise its transport network.

By aiming for a decarbonised transport network and diversifying its renewable portfolio, the island could soon be able to achieve 100% renewable energy – a leading international example.