How a tiny island chain became a world leader in wind and solar power.
image via (cc) flickr user seier
For the past several months, aviation aficionados and green-energy enthusiasts alike have been eagerly following the progress of the Solar Impulse “perpetual endurance” airplane as it attempts to circle the planet using nothing but energy provided by our sun. While that craft is, at present, a single, custom-built flyer, and not the sort of thing likely to replace an airline’s current fleet of jets any time soon, it does offer a tantalizing glimpse at a possible future for air travel—a future in which our skies fill with planes that are safe, efficient, and entirely ecologically friendly. Unfortunately, the Solar Impulse is currently grounded in Hawaii, following damage to its solar batteries. But while the Impulse may not be slated to return to the air until sometime in 2016, there’s been another major milestone in green aviation in the meantime. One that’s considerably more down to Earth.
About six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador lie the Galapagos Islands, famous for their role in contributing to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Now, however, the small archipelago province has a new claim to fame: Home to the world’s first, one hundred percent green-energy airport.
Located on the island of Baltra, the new terminal is six thousand square meters of environmentally sound architecture, powered exclusively by solar and wind energy, save only for air conditioning units used to cool the other machinery. In addition to the solar and wind power, the airport reportedly features its own desalination plant which provides clean water to the facilities sinks, while recycled water is used in the toilets. Built in part with recycled pillars once used as oil pipes, as well as materials gleaned from the island’s previous airport, the new eco-terminal first opened its doors in 2012, and is now being heralded as the first airport on Earth to go completely green.
Galapagos’ eco-airport comes at a time when more and more people have begun scrutinizing the airline industry as a whole for its environmental policies. And while a single, relatively lightly-trafficked island terminal is likely not going to make a tremendous dent in how air travel impacts the planet, it does offer a model for other countries and facilities to use in their own thinking around issues of conservation and ecology.
As Jorge Rocillo, the airport's manager, explained to Euronews: “The main thing is that it is a sustainable building, a public building that can balance technology and comfort for passengers without polluting the environment. This is basically the legacy we want to give.”