(Last modified on November 5th, 2019.)
While most countries still have some work to do to become 100% green energy reliant, some islands around the world have taken the leap and achieved this goal. From Iceland to Turkey, and Portugal to the South Pacific, these “green” islands dot the globe.
Many have reached their 100% renewable energy goals by utilizing a combination of renewable energy sources (solar, wind turbines, geothermal, hydroelectric power plants, solar, and/or experimental technology), but some have been able to depend on a single technology. While this largely depends on the resources available on site, the challenge of relying on a single energy source that’s dependent on the elements is far more complex than using an amalgamation.
The other big challenge is population size. The smaller the population, the smaller the energy demand and the easier it is to reach a 100% green energy goal. And while for the most part these islands are small with few inhabitants, there are a few exceptions that have managed to overcome this difficulty.
The hyper volcanic island of Iceland is the largest island with the biggest population (340,000 people as of 2019) to achieve a 100% renewable energy goal. Because of the island’s tectonic activity and abundance of water, geothermal and hydroelectric power cover the majority of the island’s electric needs. Like the other islands on this list, Iceland previously depended on imported fossil fuels for their energy. Now they are the world’s largest green energy producers per capita.
Bozcaada has a history with renewable energy. While in the past they had seventeen wind turbines producing 30 times the amount of electricity the island was consuming, they recently installed an experimental renewables-hydrogen energy system. This consists of wind turbines, solar and an electrolyzer with hydrogen storage capacity. Should the 2,465 locals need to meet any extra energy demands, this system can convert stored hydrogen into energy using a 25 kW fuel cell and 35 kW hydrogen gen-set engine.
Samsø Island, Denmark
Samsø reached their renewable energy goal in 2007 and are now working on the next phase of the project; becoming 100% fossil fuel free by 2030. 100% of Samsø’s electricity is powered by wind turbines but the island also utilizes solar power as well as wood chip and straw-based heating systems. They are 100% CO2 neutral and have a population of 3,724 as of 2017.
Tokelau, Territory of New Zealand
Tokelau is a group of atolls in the South Pacific with a total population of 1,500. The atolls are unreachable by plane and only have three cars between them, making it fairly easy to convert their vehicles from diesel to coconut oil consuming. The territory’s installation of their solar power plant began in June 2012 and was completed several months later in October 2012.
Graciosa Island, Portugal
The tiny island of Graciosa off the coast of Portugal has combined solar and wind to achieve their green energy goal and plans to run its old diesel generators on local bio-diesel. The 4,600 residents reached their goal in 2014 and their renewable energy program is in full swing.
Renewable Energy Projects Going Forward
While these islands have already achieved 100% renewable energy, many many more have projects underway to do so. These include Flinders Island (Tasmania), Cape Verde, Sicily, Kauai, Samoa, Tilos (Greece), Orkney (Scotland), among others. There are also countless global projects. Go100 shows a list of all international projects by country, city, region, or business that has achieved or has set a 100% renewable energy goal. You can view these by world region and click on each project to know its precise coordinates, the type(s) of renewable energy utilized and progress since the goal was set. What an awesome and inspiring resource!
These case studies show us that relying 100% on renewable energy is becoming more and more feasible for nations as whole. As technology continues to advance, systems become fine-tuned, and we arrive at the best solutions through trial and error, larger land masses and populations will be able to adopt this way of life. And as these systems develop, they pave the way for the rest of the world to follow.