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The Republic of Maldives is a chain of low lying coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean. It consists of 1192 islands on 26 natural atolls, spreading across an area of nearly 107,500 sq km. The island nature of the Maldives and the fact that the population is spread across many small islands, providing electricity by means of large turbines and the distribution of it has not been an economically feasible option. Therefore, electricity in the Maldives is generated on each island separately using small diesel electricity generators. Diesel accounts for more than 80% of the total primary energy demand. As a result most of the country’s foreign currency is used to buy fuel. As the fuel is imported, electricity in the Maldives is very expensive. Also is very sensitive to the fluctuations of diesel fuel in the world market.
Now the time has come for renewable energy; energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished). With rising electricity and fuel prices and a growing demand on energy supplies, the world is in need of reasonable substitutes in energy source. As the Maldivian islands are geographically small and does not have flowing rivers or streams, the only practicable sources for energy creation that can be enforced by means of market ready technology are solar and wind energy.
Solar energy is the technology used to utilize the sun’s energy and make it useable. Solar energy is known as an inexhaustible fuel source that is pollution and often noise free. Today, technology produces less than one tenth of one percent of global energy demand. Maldives is located in an area (4º 10′N and 73º 30′ E) with plentiful solar energy resources throughout the year for all types of solar applications.
Data from currently installed photovoltaic (PV) system in the Maldives shows that the systems to be on for almost 12 hours a day. Even though PV systems are very effective in the Maldives, because of their space requirement and current initial costs it cannot be used exclusively on a large scale.
Other than all those advantages, solar energy has got its drawbacks too. Solar energy doesn’t work at night without a storage device such as a battery. And also cloudy weather can make the technology unreliable during the day. These technologies are also very expensive and it requires a lot of land area to collect the sun’s energy which is needed for lots of people.
Wind is a clean source of renewable energy that produces no air or water pollution. Since the wind is free, operational costs are nearly zero once a turbine is attached. Wind is the movement of air from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. Therefore, wind exists due to an unequal heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. As long as the sun shines, the wind will blow.
The low lying island nature of the Maldives environment ascertains that there is always a substantial wind at a sensible height. Wind data collected by the meteorological authorities of the Maldives implies that wind turbines with low cut-in and operating wind speeds would be a practicable option in the Maldives. To provide the wind component, wind turbines are used.
Gaafaru (North Male’ atoll)’s wind farm project is so far the major wind farm project announced in Maldives. It will be a 75 megawatt wind farm built by Falcon energy. This wind farm will produce clean electricity for North Male’ atoll, which includes capital Male’, Hulhule’ and a number of luxury tourist resorts.
Some people think wind turbines are ugly and complain about the noise pollution it makes. The slowly rotating blades can also kill birds and bats, but not roughly as many as vehicles, power lines, and high-rise buildings do. The wind also varies. If it is not blowing, no electricity is generated.
Renewable energy is very important for a country like Maldives. Maldives being one of the world’s lowest-lying countries, almost 99% of the country is the ocean; it is one of the most unique nations in the world. By a rise in sea levels of one meter, homes of 385,000 people will be completely lost. The country would be rendered almost entirely uninhabitable. Maldives has declared to be the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2020. Moving onto renewable energy comes under this plan.
President Mohamed Nasheed had said that “Maldives wants to set an example by demonstrating that a country can develop without having to pollute the planet.”