Maldive Islands, officially Republic of Maldives, is an island country in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls stretching in a north-south direction off India’s Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago. It stands in the Laccadive Sea, about seven hundred kilometres (435 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka.
The atolls of Maldives encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers, making it one of the most disparate countries in the world. It features 1,192 islets, of which two hundred islands are inhabited. The Republic of Maldives capital and largest city is Malé, with a population of 103,693 (2006). It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll, in the Kaafu Atoll. It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King’s Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where the palace was located.
Over the last century, sea levels have risen about 20 centimetres (8 in); further rises of the ocean could threaten the existence of Maldives, being the lowest country in the world, with a maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in), with the average being only 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level. However, around 1970, the sea level there dropped 20–30 centimetres (8–12 in).
In November 2008, President Mohamed Nasheed announced plans to look into purchasing new land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia, due to his concerns about global warming and the possibility of much of the islands being inundated with water from rising sea levels. Current estimates place sea level rise at 59 centimetres (23 in) by the year 2100. The purchase of land will be made from a fund generated by tourism.
The President has explained his intentions: "We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades".
On 22 April 2008, then Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom pleaded for a cut in global greenhouse gas emissions, warning that rising sea levels could submerge the island nation of Maldives. In 2009, subsequent president Mohamed Nasheed pledged to make the Maldives carbon-neutral within a decade by moving to solar and wind power.
Most recently, President Nasheed held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting on October 17, 2009 to raise awareness of threats from climate change to low-lying nations such as the Maldives.
The Maldives’ State Electric Company Limited, STELCO, have signed a 20-year agreement with Falcon Energy, whereby Falcon Energy will build and operate a 75 megawatt wind farm in Gaafaru island, North Male’ atoll.
The wind farm will produce clean electricity for North Male’ atoll, which includes Male’ island, the Maldivian capital, the international airport island of Hulhule’ and a number of luxury tourist resorts.
The $200 million foreign direct investment will see the construction of the latest generation wind turbines, which will be connected to the electricity grid of Male’ through a network of submarine electricity cables.
On windy days, excess electricity generated by the turbines will be used to run a water desalination plant, which will produce bottled drinking water. On calm days, a liquefied natural gas plant will provide 50 MW of back-up power.
The project will provide an economic windfall for the remote island of Gaafaru. Many of the island’s 800 inhabitants will be offered lucrative jobs in maintaining the wind farm equipments and facilities.
Once operational, the wind farm will allow the inhabited and resort islands in North Male’ atoll to switch off their existing diesel power generators.
GE Energy will carry out a technical feasibility assessment, and based on the results of the study it will develop a comprehensive proposal around GE Energy’s power generation technology for the Project and technical assistance for both wind turbine generators and back up liquid fuel generator.
The plan was unveiled on Monday 2 November at a ceremony attended by Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed and representatives from GE Energy, Falcon Energy and STELCO, at the STELCO head office in Male’.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Nasheed said the government understood the importance of breaking the Maldives’ dependence on the unpredictable price of foreign oil.
He added, the government’s shift to wind was due to “environmental consciousness and financial prudence.”
The President reiterated his belief that the winners of the 21st century would be “the countries who were ready to embrace renewable energy and green technologies.”
He said, “We want the Maldives to be a winner of the 21st century.”
“We want the Maldives to be the place to test renewables. We want the Maldives to be the place to build renewables. We want the Maldives to be the place to invest in renewables. We will position the Maldives as a showcase for renewable energy”, added the President.
Kishore Jayaraman, President and CEO, GE Energy, India Region, said, “It is a moment of great pride for all of us at GE Energy to be associated with the Maldives government’s goal to realize their vision of green energy development. To boost investment in renewable energy, it is essential to introduce clear, stable and long-term policies and the Maldives government is providing that necessary policy support. GE looks forward to undertaking a feasibility study to determine the potential of this region.”
“At GE, we understand that renewable energy will be an integral part of the world energy mix. The world needs reliable, affordable and clean supply of electric power with zero greenhouse gas emissions, which is why GE continues to drive investment and research in cutting-edge technologies to power the world responsibly. Our commitment is to help our partners and customers design and implement renewable energy solutions for their unique energy needs”, Mr. Jayaraman further adds.
Hassan Zahir, Chairman of STELCO, said, “STELCO is pleased to be a part of this major project in renewable energy. We are committed to diverse electricity generation to renewable sources, and to make Maldives a carbon neutral country within a decade, as planned by the President his Excellency Mohamed Nasheed. Hence, today we are taking an important step to achieve this goal, and are confident that it will help to drive in others in the power sector to invest in renewable energy sources.”
In March, President Nasheed announced plans to make the Maldives carbon neutral in 10 years. A shift from oil to renewable energy production lies at the heart of the Maldives’ carbon neutral plan.
Chris Goodall of Oxford Climate Associates, who developed the Maldives’ carbon neutral plan, said the Gaafaru project would reduce the Maldives’ carbon dioxide emissions by up to 25%.
GE Energy – www.ge.com/energy – is one of the world’s leading suppliers of power generation and energy delivery technologies, with 2008 revenue of $29.3 billion. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, GE Energy works in all areas of the energy industry including coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy; renewable resources such as water, wind, solar and biogas; and other alternative fuels. Numerous GE Energy products are certified under ecomagination, GE’s corporate-wide initiative to aggressively bring to market new technologies that will help customers meet pressing environmental challenges.
Falcon Energy and it’s partner WGS has commissioned onshore and offshore wind farms totalling 1,500 MW over the past ten years, in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Canada.
STELCO, is owned by the Government of Maldives whose core business includes power generation, distribution and retail. STELCO has its largest operation in Male’ with an installed capacity of 38.76MW, and a 26 km underground 11kV distribution network feeding power to 99 distribution transformers to provide electricity to over 25,000 customers.
Managing Director Abdul Matheen Mohamed said that the contract of the project to produce energy using wind turbines had been signed with Sweden’s Madsen Consulting Company on 24 November. He said that under the contract, the wind turbines will be constructed in Hinnavaru by the Swedish company.
“They will finance the construction and install the turbine on their own,” Matheen said. “Once it has been set up we will connect it to our grid and buy the electricity from them. The reason we are doing it this way is to gain confidence about the opportunities available from producing wind energy.”
Matheen further said that the Utilities Company was not concerned about the cost of the project, since all the construction and financial aspects of the project to build the single 75 kW turbine would be handled by the Swedish company. He stressed that this was not a wind farm project but a pilot project to determine the feasibility of such an endeavor.
Matheen added that if the project was successful then the Company would commence with their own wind energy project.
The Maldives representative of Madsen Consultancy, Niyaz Ahmed, said that all the materials and equipments required for the project were on their way to Maldives now. He further said that he estimated that the wind turbine would be installed within the next two months or so, and added that the Swedish Company did not wish the divulge the total cost of the project at this time.
Matheen said that the aim of Northern Utilities Company was to begin providing electricity to Hinnavaru using the wind turbine by February next year.
Suzlon Energy is conducting a feasibility study for a 25MW wind farm in Addu atoll.