When the blades of its 800-kilowatt wind turbine start turning, the small Greek island of Tilos will become the first in the Mediterranean to run exclusively on wind and solar power.
The sea horse-shaped Greek island between Rhodes and Kos has a winter population of 400. But that swells to as many as 3,000 people in the summer, putting an impossible strain on its dilapidated power supply.
This summer, technicians are conducting the final tests on a renewable replacement system that will be fully rolled out later this year. It will allow Tilos to run exclusively on high-tech batteries recharged by a wind turbine and a solar park.
The European Commission says Tilos will be the first autonomous renewable green island in the Mediterranean. It plans to use the project as a blueprint for other small islands across the European Union that have limited grid connection to the mainland. The EU has largely funded the project, providing 11 million euros ($12.5 million) of the total 13.7 million-euro ($15.7 million) cost.
“The innovation of this program and its funding lies in the batteries—the energy storage—that’s what’s innovative,” project manager Spyros Aliferis said. “The energy produced by the wind turbines and the photovoltaics will be stored in batteries, so that this energy can be used for the grid when there is demand.”
The batteries store power during sunny and windy conditions, releasing it during periods of heavy demand and lower production—such as at nighttime and the peak tourist season—to keep the grid powered up.
Named TILOS—Technology Innovation for the Local Scale Optimum Integration of Battery Energy Storage—the project uses a prototype battery system that improves storage of the excess energy generated until it’s needed.
To work, it required an overhauled grid with smart meters installed in homes and businesses to calculate times of peak demand.
Currently, Tilos gets its energy from an underwater cable that runs from Kos to the island of Nisiros and on to Tilos. That creates an erratic, outage-prone service that routinely breaks appliances and has forced many businesses to rely on diesel generators.