The blue-footed boobies reach the water between the fishing boats, while sea lions nurse their cubs and the iguanas walk along the white-sand beaches. The Galapagos Islands, 1000 kilometers from Ecuador and located in the middle of the Pacific, are among the most beautiful islands in the world, and 40 years ago they were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The flora and fauna evolves uniquely in the ecosystem without being affected. 80% of terrestrial birds, almost 100% of snails and 43% of terrestrial plants are endemic: they do not live anywhere else in the world.
However, the animal and vegetable decay, increased tourism and the constant growth of the population, make the sensitive system undergo changes and threaten paradise: in 30 years, the population has multiplied by five to 30,000 and the number of visitors has increased from 20,000 to 220,000 per year. That means more waste, more effluent, more energy.
Until now, the energy used in Galapagos has come almost exclusively from diesel fuel, threatening the ecosystem itself. Pictures of the past have shown oil-stained seals, iguanas and seabirds suffering the consequences of maritime accidents..
Ten years ago, the Ecuadorian government launched the “zero fossil fuels in Galapagos”, an initiative to reduce diesel consumption with the help of photovoltaic systems, batteries, wind generators and biofuels, aiming a more sustainable infrastructure. In Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos, Siemens has built a hybrid power plant that uses a combination of solar and biofuel.
“We are proud to be able to contribute to this project by helping to preserve the islands for generations to come,” said Carsten Schryver, Managing Director of Schryver.
Together with Swiss General Transport AG, Schryver organized and carried out the transport of equipment from Siemens to the island. It all started at the port of Hamburg: 30 containers were loaded on a ship beyond the oceans. Across the Atlantic, the floodgates of the Panama Canal allowed to cross the valuable cargo that arrived eight weeks later, ranging over 10,000 nautical miles to the Port of Guayaquil in Ecuador.
As Isabela Island’s infrastructure is not ready for international cargo vessels, we make a transhipment in the port of Guayaquil for a smaller unit that crossed to the neighbor island of Isabela, called Santa Cruz. From the latter, all 40 containers had to be transported one by one to Isabela.
“First, we verified the geographical and ecological conditions of the Galapagos Islands precisely to meet all the requirements of the Ecuadorian government and our client,” says Schryver.
This was a logistical challenge: on the one hand, the islands lack any kind of infrastructure to manage this type of cargo and, on the other hand, 97% of the land and 99% of the surrounding waters are under strict protection.
The entrance to the islands and the circulation on the surfaces are, therefore, strongly regulated.
Finally, all the containers were transported individually by a small blue boat baptized “Orca”. Due to the low water level of the lagoon at Puerto Villamil, “Orca” was taken to the beach during the high tide and waited until the next low level, with the first ship having to remain docked during the operation.
Another challenge was that “the cargo had a maximum weight of 20 tons, because we could not bring larger cranes to Isabela,” says Matthias Schmidt, who was at Schryver’s site and coordinated the operation on the island.
Thanks to all the teamwork, today the hybrid power plant built on a black volcanic rock field supplies sustainable energy to almost 900 families in Isabela. The plant is supervised by Siemens experts at the MindSphere Application Center in Munich. There, data from the power station at the end of the world is reflected in the control tower of the Bavarian capital.