Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Energy sources in our own backyard
The discussion about coconut oil as an alternative to diesel turns now to other sources of renewable energy. Readers should click http://www.unesco.org/csi/smis/siv/Forum/keyissues15b.htm to see additional information on coconut oil.
Mali Voi from Samoa (Pacific) writes: Coconut oil as an energy source for automobiles is one thing, but how about energy from the sun, winds, and waves? In 2001 we conducted a workshop in Port Vila, Vanuatu for young artists on papermaking using barks of bananas. Today some of those artists have gone into making paper from grass and sugarcane waste. These natural resources grow abundantly in some of our islands. The central message that I am putting forward is that we should look for innovative ideas to sustain livelihoods in all our islands especially when times are hard.
Sabra from the island of Kaua'i in the Hawaiian archipelago (Pacific) writes: Aloha, I have recently returned from an Educators Expedition to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. This is a vast area of ancient islands north of Kaua`i extending toward Japan. There is a US Fish & Wildlife Station at Tern Island that runs 99% on solar energy. I think we are all going to have to look very seriously at solar energy. It comes to us from the heavens and the technology exists to harness it. We just have to find a way to buy the solar panels and related technology. Additionally, until now I have resisted wind energy because I don't think windmills are very attractive. If you make a windmill look like a tree I may be more positive about the idea. Furthermore, here on Kaua'i we have thousands of acres of fallow agricultural land as all but one of our sugar plantations have closed. There is a Renewable Energy Committee, composed of concerned community volunteers, that is meeting to explore alternative uses for this land and especially to address alternative sources of energy. A possible idea is to once again cultivate palm trees for their oil and other uses. This is actually an old idea that has come around again. In our rush for foreign oil we have forgotten about the many uses of our home-grown plants and trees. My message for all of us who live on islands is to look in our own backyards for those plants that can provide energy for our community.
Sahayam from Fiji (Pacific) writes: Did you know that here in Labasa, Fiji Islands (Pacific) we use bagasse (a waste product from sugar extraction) as a source of energy to supply electricity via steam engines. This power is available through the Fiji Sugar Corporation, which produces enough waste power to supply industries, factories and residents, all of which can be located many kilometers from the source. We hope that if fossil fuel supplies are depleted bagasse could be an answer.
Continuing on the theme of using energy from sugar, Lionel Fox writes: When I lived in Brazil it was common to have a pump at the gas station, delivering alcohol to use in cars. Could small islands grow enough sugar to support themselves in alcohol?
Leslie Hamlet from Antigua and Barbuda (Caribbean) refers to the politics of energy supply: I am also of the firm belief that small islands need as a matter of urgency to find an alternative to our current energy crisis. There are some islands in the Caribbean that can utilise hydro electricity, e.g. Dominica. There are other islands that because of their mountainous nature and proximity to the Atlantic winds may be able to generate electricity using wind generators. The use of biodiesel is OK, however, it will require a significant amount of capital investment and research. The energy superpowers will not want to volunteer the technology cheaply. Therefore we may be forced to find a cheaper productive way to resolve our energy crisis ourselves. We need to do something fast.
Johnson Seeto from Fiji (Pacific) writes that our attitude to energy and energy conservation must change: It is okay to say we should switch to alternative sources of renewable energies, but more research is needed to refine these energy sources. More money should be given to promote these kinds of research. Meanwhile, we should also make more efficient use of oil NOW. We do not need 4-wheel drive macho machines on our paved roads and this mentality must change.
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