Carbon neutral nature reserve, powered by the sun

Seychelles' Minister for Environment, Energy & Climate change 'switching on the sun'

Hundreds of breeding seabirds fly above excitedly as if joining in the celebration of the moment the power was switched on. The Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Mr. Didier Dogley has just officially launched the installation of a solar power system on Cousin Island.

The successful installation of a second-generation Photovoltaic (PV) system on Cousin Island Special Reserve, which is managed by Nature Seychelles, means that the island is now fully powered by the sun.

“The government has been putting a lot of emphasis on renewable energy,” Minister Dogley said at the launch. “And we now have Cousin running on one hundred percent renewable energy. Nature Seychelles has always been innovative in the way that it works.”

 Minister Dogley and Dr Shah arriving on Cousin

The minister further added that he hopes that this type of technology can be applied to other islands in the Seychelles thus ensuring the protection of the environment which the country and its people are so dependent on, and which is cherished by those who visit the Seychelles.

The solar power system will not only save the organisation thousands of rupees in fuel used in running a generator, which itself needs regular maintenance, and replacement every two years; it will also make Cousin a real environment conservation success story. The switch to solar power will reduce the carbon emissions on Cousin Island by around 8.000kg annually and reduce the carbon credits Nature Seychelles purchases on the international market to ensure the carbon neutrality of the island.

  Minister Dogley meeting Cousin staff 

“This is a historic moment,” Dr Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO says. “In the year 2000, Cousin became the first Island to be fully powered by solar. Ten years later we were the first nature reserve in the world to become carbon neutral. Fifteen years later, we now have a second generation PV solar system. The interesting thing is how we finally got it funded after we had gone from pillar to post trying to secure financing for this project.”

Indeed, the project was funded entirely through crowd funding, meeting and surpassing the target needed to pay for and import all the parts as well as installation fees. Crowd funding is a means of funding a project or venture, via the internet, by collecting small amounts of money from a large number of people worldwide. This type of funding is typically used to fund commercial innovations with a final product for sale, unlike with the solar power project on Cousin.

 A closer look at the the solar panels

Individuals were invited to donate £1 for each of the twelve hours the sun is out in the Seychelles Islands, totalling to a contribution of £12 each. The largest donation came from a UK energy company Utilitia. Other smaller donations came from an electrical engineering company named E.V Bullens, amongst other organisations via their corporate responsibility funds. The US Embassy contributed a substantial amount as well.

Mr. Tim Kirkpatrick, owner of Climate Caring, partnered with Nature Seychelles, and in April 2014 took on the task of the online campaign via Indiegogo, a crowd funding firm. Kirkpatrick, an electrical engineer, also installed the solar system after having worked for months on sourcing and importing the right parts from several countries.

 Kirkpatrick explaining how the solar installation works

“For the first time in a year I can sit here (in front of the Field Station on Cousin), have a cup of coffee and smile knowing that what we have achieved is remarkable.” Kirkpatrick said on the day the work was completed, as he looked over at the solar panels glistening in the bright afternoon sun. "I believe we have raised awareness on climate change, and not just in Seychelles.”

Nature Seychelles staff and volunteers on Cousin were all sunny smiles the morning after the solar power was turned on, happy to be able to have a fan on all night and charge their electrical gadgets. Normally, the generator was switched on for one hour in the morning, another hour around lunch time and six hours in the evening.

“It’s great to be able to see the colour of my tea when I’m up before sunrise,” joked Tom Hiney, Chief Warden on Cousin Island. “Aaah! Cold drinking water!” Kate Robinson, an international volunteer chimed in.

 

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