“The sun and air are there; the energy is free, the only things you need are the machines”. Julian Watson Todd has no doubt that renewable energies are the future, and for this reason, he and the rest of the Terravita team have set themselves the goal of putting Ibiza on the map in relation to clean energies, which is definitely not the case at present. While in some European countries 30% of their energy comes from renewable sources, Ibiza does not even reach a 1%, despite that one of the main sources of energy, namely the sun, is a great allay, and, as Julian assures “even the central government recently admitted that it is cheaper to produce energy on the Balearic and Canary islands with renewable energies than with conventional ones”.
While he crosses his fingers waiting for the passing of the new regulation laws for the promotion of renewable energies on the Balearic Islands, this Ibicenc with English and German roots admits that many people are skeptical about solar and rebuts arguments like “one cannot have the same standard of living with renewable energies” or that “the systems are too complicated”. Long gone are the days where special fridges had to be bought because one had to use direct current. For this very reason everyday there are more private home owners or business men on the island who bet on renewables, but now with a double motive: the environmental issue and the other, which is gathering momentum, to save money on electricity bills, however there are obstacles. While during the interview Julian was confident about the new regulations on net metering which contemplated the possibility of selling or reutilizing the excess energy produced from the solar system, yesterday the draft or the law was exposed and not only does it not contemplate that possibility but introduces a new toll which puts up the tariff by 27% for those who opt for producing their own energy instead of the conventional one.
Toni Roig, owner of the restaurant “Es Jardins de Fruitera, in Santa Gertrudis decided one good morning to unplug himself from the electricity grid. One year later he is satisfied and his installation has become the largest registered installation on the Balearic Islands. “We had a problem because the contracted power was not sufficient and Endesa asked for a new transformer to be built which was extremely expensive” Julian recalls. The first resort was the use of two diesel generators that were on 24 hours a day, the cost in diesel was prohibitive and so it was decided to make an investment in a renewable stand-alone power supply where the generator would only act as an emergency. “The heart of this technologically advanced system is an intelligent energy manager which decides where to obtain the energy from” Julian explains, standing in the interior of the technical room were all the various elements are: the inverters that change DC into AC (standard house current), the intelligent manager, and the battery bank that can accumulate 288 kW of energy enough to run a small flat for a whole month without any sunlight.
After the boom that the renewable energies experienced a few years ago “with excess feed in tariffs which now the state has to pay”, now, after the recent passed law on the electrical reform a new energy panorama is written.
The energy consumers suffer continuous increases in electricity bills but the doors are opening to the democratization of the energy we use, although the latest news could put Spain in the rear compared to its European counter parts. “There are two modalities in grid connected systems. One, where one sells the totality of the energy produced and the other based upon the self-consumption concept where one produced one’s own energy which in effect allows anyone to be an energy producer”, resumed this well informed man of the ins and outs of the system.
Jennifer Buckle, an English woman who lives on the island also decided to invest in renewable energies. Her house which is located in the countryside near the village of Santa Gertrudis works with solar energy thanks to a system designed with solar trackers. “The owners did not want any solar modules on the roof for aesthetic reasons, and since they had lots of terrain we decided to install them in a nearby field with a solar tracking system that achieves maximum efficiency as the trackers follow the sun”, the man in charge of Terravita explained, who is accustomed to find tailor made solutions for the clients. Every generated Kilowatt produced by the modules (there are five modules per tracker producing 1250 Watts) is carbon dioxide that is not released into the atmosphere. In Jennifer Buckles case, who also works from home and does not want any unpleasant surprises a backup system was also connected which is also connected to the electricity grid (Endesa) in case there is a black out.
The modalities are as varied as the clients requirements. Big investments are not always necessary, in fact, in Italy, Julian points out “the solar modules are hung on the balconies”. In Ibiza it is still rare to see the small house owner buying solar modules for his flat rooftop. Then again, there are pioneer projects like the hybrid house that a renowned architect has asked Terravita to power. A house that will produce all its energy through three systems available on Ibiza: solar energy, wind turbines and biomass.
There those, that do not even want a generator in their house, not even for emergencies. Is this possible? Can one be totally independent only using renewable energies? “An Ibicencan resident wanted just that, and we said no problem but he would have to vary some of his living habits” Julian recalls. With an investment of 40,000 € “with a good payback” his house works 100% with renewable energy. “The trick is to use more when more is produced. For example, washing machines should be used during the day and in cases of need the intelligent energy manager will block off certain circuits which could be the pool pump or the Jacuzzi”.
On a mountainous island with isolated house doted around the countryside another valid option are the micro grids that allows various houses to be connected amongst themselves. The future, according to Julian is a balanced energy mix.
Generate electricity and clean the forests
The necessary energy to heat the Santa Eulalia municipal swimming pool is presently being produced by a Biomass boiler, a system that uses wood chips (or wood pellets) and other natural residues such as olive stones or nut shells, and, as Mariano Juan the Conseller de Industria de Eivissa explains, has a double benefit for the island: “Savings by not having to use diesel fuel and the cleaning of the forests”. His next objective is the swimming pool of Es Raspaller, a project that is still pending funding. “We hope to start before the end of the year and if all goes well and it works it could be used in the new hospital”.
Despite the reduction in subsidies he is confident about the future of renewable energies in Ibiza, especially solar energy “with less visual impact than the wind turbines”. He confirms that they are studying at this very moment a new set of regulations included in the electrical reform and thinks “that it is possible that on the islands that renewable energies are more profitable than conventional forms of energy generation taking into an account that they have improved in efficiency”.