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Wind resource assessment in the Maldives: Steps towards more cost-effective energy

In July 2017, the Maldives’ Minister of Environment and Energy conducted a workshop on preparing a roadmap for a low-carbon development of the energy sector of the Maldives. In his remarks, he indicated that the government has an objective for 30% of the nation’s daytime electricity to be provided by renewables by 2018. This is an ambitious target for a small nation currently almost entirely dependent on imported fossil fuels, ferried between the hundreds of small inhabited islands far from the mainland. However, it is also a necessary goal: The Maldives imports all its fuels in refined form and in very small quantities, driving up energy costs to more than $1/kWh.Certainly, the keystone action in achieving carbon neutrality is displacing its dependence on diesel-based power with renewable energy alternatives. In order to support these ambitious goals, the government requested the support of the World Bank and the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) in providing information on renewable energy resource potential in the country.

In late 2015, DNV GL reported on the progress of three ESMAP Wind Resource Assessment and Mapping projects in Zambia, Tanzania, and the Maldives, for which DNV GL had created preliminary wind atlases indicating significant potential for wind energy development. This series of mesoscale mapping outputs using models and existing data are all publicly available through the Global Atlas for Renewable Energy that is being developed by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The project aims to reveal the true extent of wind energy production potential in each of the three countries.

As of April 2017, two ZephIR Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) devices have been commissioned in the Maldives as part of the second phase of the Maldives ESMAP Project. The Project was initiated and supported by both the World Bank and the Maldives Ministry of Environment and Energy, and sponsored by ESMAP and the Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy Program (ASTAE). DNV GL has implemented the Project, with support from local partners Consonant Solutions and Renewable Energy Maldives.

The Lidar devices have been installed on two islands in the north of the country, Thulusdhoo and Hoarafushi, which interim results indicate have a more promising wind resource. The ZephIR 300 onshore wind Lidars are a remote sensing device, which use lasers to profile wind speed and direction at heights up to 200 meters above ground. These ground-based measurements will be used in validating mesoscale modelling outputs created in the first phase of the project, and will eventually support the development of a country-wide wind resource assessment atlas.

The Lidar devices were commissioned as an alternative to traditional meteorological masts, which can be challenging to install in remote island locations, where space is at a premium due to high population density and corrosive salt air degrades steel components quickly. The Lidars, approximately the size of a portable generator, require only a small physical footprint and an unobstructed view of the sky to record wind resource data every ten minutes, 24 hours per day. Data are remotely sent to DNV GL for regular quality-checking and review. The Lidars will be able to be re-positioned after the end of the two-year campaign, to collect wind measurement data at additional locations.

DNV GL commissioned the units at small compounds owned by local utilities, and performed a short demonstration of the Lidars’ functionality for participants from the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Maldives Meteorological Service, the Maldives Energy Authority, and representatives from local utilities Stelco and Fenaka that are hosting the devices. Attendees received an overview of the technology, a description of how data are collected and used in the Wind Resource Mapping Project, and an overview of the project’s progress to date and future phases.

The Lidars will continue to collect data for the duration of the measurement campaign, at which point data will be used to validate the mesoscale mapping outputs created in Phase 1 of the project. The updated, validated maps will be publicly available as part of the Global Atlas for Renewable Energy. Providing high-quality data to interested parties both generates interest in development for new entrants to the Maldivian market, as well as clears a key hurdle for financing wind projects by providing data for developers further down the project development pipeline. As the project advances and these outputs stimulate development, the Maldives is on its way to a more cost effective and domestically developed source of energy for its growing population.

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