Mapping Rural Renewable Energy Resources in the Falklands
- Pooling Our Expertise –
For decades the Falkland Islands have been world leaders in the introduction of sustainable energy systems into their energy mix. In 1996 they were one of the first countries in the world to offer a grant to cover a proportion of the capital cost of a sustainable energy technology. The first schemes introduced were in Denmark and Germany Governments in the early 1990s but similar schemes in other countries were not introduced until the mid to late 2000s. For example the UK Government introduced their scheme in 2010, 14 years after the Falklands.
The current installed electricity generation capacity of the Falklands is 22.2MW (estimated 2015), Of this, 18.8MW (84.6%) is from fossil fuel generation, 3.4MW (14.9%) is from wind generation and 0.07MW (0.5%) is from solar generation From the 3.37MW (15.3%) of installed capacity from renewable sources it is predicted that 37% of the total annual demand of the Falkland Islands (eg the electricity required by users) is covered. (Information from Falkland Island Government (FIG)). In other words the islands regularly generate almost two fifths of their annual energy needs from renewable sources, an amazing achievement! This is one of the reasons that in 2016, The Falkland Islands was declared a “Renewable Energy Champion” by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The Falkland Islands Government has set no official renewable targets but has approached the United Kingdom Government to be included as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, which has the aim of "(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development." And further more aims for “global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible” (UNFCCC).
The Falkland Islands are well placed to meet all targets and challenges set by the need to increase the level of sustainable energy in the energy mix to contribute to governments worldwide meeting the above aims and the islands can set an example to other nations as to how this can be done.
As every resident or visitor to the Falkland Islands will know there are a number of good sources of sustainable energy, these are Wind, Solar Radiation, Water, Tidal Range and Sea Currents. The more feasible sources at present are Wind, Solar Radiation and Water.
As the Islands are not located near a country where there is pressure to develop the use of renewables – such as countries in Europe, North America etc., there is a lack of information on the level and distribution of renewable energy sources. Without this data it is hard to understand the payback or saving that installation of a renewable energy technology can have to an individual or company, this could be limiting the investment into renewable technology.
FIDC set out to pull together all available expertise and information on renewable resources and make them available to individual households or business on an interactive internet basis.
How did we go about it?
The (UK) Falkland Islands Trust (through its’ consultant, Jim McAdam of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and Queens’ University Belfast) has, over the past few years, been involved in a project (with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, FIG and Falklands Conservation) to assess the potential impact of climate change on plants, soils and farming in the Falklands. One part of this project was to gather all available weather records for the Falklands and surrounding regions to make them available to climate change modellers.
For such a relatively small and isolated place off the southern shores of a continent which has poor climate documentation, the Falklands has a reasonable climate record for some of the important variables which go to making up renewable resources. The problem was to find all these and to patch together the often short-term runs of records from scattered camp stations. Many of these existed only in sheets of paper stored away in drawers some had been kept in the (pre-1982) Met Station.
For example, for some strange reason NASA holds old records of wave heights from ships traversing the seas around the Falklands – but these were still marked “confidential”! Additionally, because of our links with the Antarctic there was a period when BAS were responsible for weather recording and record keeping in the Falklands. Through the Trust’s good linkages and relationships with the recording station at the Institute of Patagonia in Punta Arenas, it was able to get access to a long chain of rainfall, temperature and wind records from there – most of the weather comes from the westerly direction.
The Trust was able to source a landscape and environmental consultancy firm in Northern Ireland (Park Hood Environmental) which has been responsible for mapping renewable energy resources (particularly in relation to solar panel “farms” and wind turbine location) and give them the Falklands data on wind, sunshine, cloud cover and rainfall to produce island-wide distribution maps for these.
The next stage of the project was to make these available to FIDC and the end user on a web interactive basis.
This is where we have used the local expertise available in our own South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI).
Delivery of the product
In the last three years a lot of effort has been put into developing and building a data centre for the Falkland Islands. Based at SAERI, the Information Management System (IMS) and Geographic Information Systems(GIS) data centre provides data users, e.g. researchers, government officers, conservationists and private sector, the opportunity to learn about collecting, documenting, accessing, managing and using geographic data in a more effective, quicker and simpler way. In this particular situation, the data centre was requested to help produce the FI renewable energy resources project into a webGIS service in order to make the data accessible to everyone.
The main benefit of webGIS is its simplicity, in fact there is no need to be an expert in GIS to navigate through the project, just switch on/off the data layers and obtain a map. A Google earth image of the Falkland Islands, overlapped by the farm boundaries, welcomes the users of the webGIS service. Then, the visualisation of the data is a very straightforward operation. In fact, it is all about deciding which data layer has to be displayed on the map and then click on it. Further information on the data layer, such as who, when, how and where has been collected, can be retrieved by clicking on an obvious information icon.
The users can zoom in and out or target the zoom to farm and settlement names. Additionally, users can click on the features in the map and retrieve information on the attribute values, for example millimetres of rainfall, degrees of temperature and, type of soil, geology so on.
This webGIS project is one of many that have been already published by the data centre in support of other projects. For accessing a guide to how to use the webGIS service and for looking at the other webGIS services (Marine Spatial Planning and Protected areas) please visit the webpage:
and click on WebGIS. Being part of the project led by FIDC and FIT has been great. The hope is to have a positive response from the public so that other useful webGIS services can be realised in the future for the local community.
Might our renewable energy resources change over time?
As mentioned above, FIT has been involved in sourcing climate change predictions for the Falklands. To date these have been carried out for temperature and rainfall only, the two weather variables we have the longest records for and the ones that are the basis of most prediction models.
The prediction is that temperature will increase by about 2°C maximum over the next century with little change in total rainfall. However, given that as air warms, it holds more moisture so it is likely that the frequency and distribution of rainfall will change with heavier bursts of rain predicted – and the associated flooding risks.
We know from our storminess records that the Falklands have gone through long cycles of changes in frequency of gales and strong winds. The period from around the 1920s to the 1960s was significantly calmer than average and we are now in a period when storm frequency is increasing. Predicting changes in storminess is more complex than temperature and rainfall and the FIT is currently trying to source funds to have these predictions carried out. It would obviously be of benefit to be able to forward plan what is likely limits of extremes our wind energy generation system might experience and be able to plan for that. A project for another day!
Where the Map can be found?
For information on the output of a solar array in your area, click the link below