“Graciosa” -A Game Changing Renewable Energy Project

Portugal’s clean energy Graciosa project is expected to set new standards for islands across the world.
Published: Thu 23 Apr 2015

The world’s first megawatt-scale renewable energy plus storage system, currently being built on the island of Graciosa, Azores, Portugal, is expected to be a game-changing renewable energy project .

Graciosa project-setting new standards for islands

Electricidade dos Açores (EDA), the utility responsible for the production, distribution and commercialization of electricity in the nine Azorean islands, and Younicos, a German-American specialist in renewable energy integration, teamed up in 2012 to develop the Graciosa project which is expected to set new standards for islands aiming to develop a clean energy system.

The centrepiece of the system is a fully automated, intelligently managed 2.8MW battery park integrated into the intelligent energy management system. The system will incorporate wind (4.5MW) and solar (1MW) power resources, and intelligent inverters. Furthermore, by stabilizing the grid without the rotating mass of a conventional thermal engine, the system will enable the grid to be fully powered by wind and solar energy.

Swiss battery manufacturer Leclanché is providing a complete Battery Energy Storage Solution (BESS), using its lithium-ion batteries, which will be combined with Younicos Energy Management software. In addition, an affiliate of Recharge ApS, one of Leclanché’s largest shareholders, will provide €3.5 million in convertible debt financing to the project’s operating company Graciolica, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Younicos. This will of course accelerate development.

When operational, the system will provide 70% of the 13GWh of power consumed on Graciosa annually. Moreover, it is expected to save Portugal €1.5 million over the project’s 20-year lifespan.

Clean energy grid to reduce fuel imports

The renewable energy-powered grid will boost the island’s annual share of renewable energies, from a previous limit of 15% to 65%, thereby enabling the island to reduce its reliance on costly fossil fuel imports which supplied its 4,500 inhabitants with electricity. The objective of the Graciosa project is to replace the five diesel generators that were responsible for the island’s power supply.

The island is currently working towards a self-sufficient energy system. Already, a number of islanders have installed off-grid renewable power projects to take advantage of the island’s abundant wind and sunshine. There are also plans to run the old diesel generators on locally produced biodiesel.

According to Duarte Ponte, president of EDA, the success of Graciosa project will be a milestone on the future of renewable energy in Azores and in all remote places of the world. EDA has plans to add geothermal, solar, hydro and wind power to its energy mix.

Azores- a renewable testing ground

The Azores islands host some of the world’s most advanced sustainable energy systems test projects based on renewable energy resources, which include solar power, wind power, water power, geothermal and biomass power, as well as the production of energy from waves and maritime currents.

In 2009, a protocol was signed between the Regional Government of the Azores, the Foundation for Science and Technology, MIT Portugal and the University of the Azores, with a view to implementing the Green Islands Project. The project aims at making the Azorean islands a model for reducing carbon emissions and fight climate changes.

The programme, involving the Azores and other islands around the world, aims to develop new methodologies to identify cost-effective sustainable energy solutions and options utilizing natural resources that are indigenous to these areas.

Islands act as excellent laboratories where it is possible to organize and demonstrate new methodologies for an economic and environmentally sustainable change with innovative solutions in the energy arena.

Further reading

Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Green Islands Azores [pdf]