As part of EU Sustainable Energy Week in June 2017, the EU Sustainable Energy Awards were presented to four innovative sustainable energy projects from all over Europe. One, the TILOS project from the Greek island of Tilos, won not only the Energy Islands category but also the Citizens' Award. We asked Dimitris Zafirakis, the project coordinator, to tell us more about it.
1. Where did the idea for the TILOS project come from?
There is a strong environmental culture amongst the people of Tilos and they have always had an open mind when it comes to innovative ideas, such as the implementation of the TILOS project on their island. This is largely thanks to the former mayor, Mr Tasos Aliferis, who loved the island and fought for the protection of the local environment. At the same time, the locals experience fairly regular power cuts. This is due to the remoteness of the island and the fact that the undersea cable that connects it to the island of Kos, supplying Tilos with electricity generated from oil-based power, is vulnerable to faults. Eliminating the problem of power outages by using locally-produced clean electricity is a top priority for the people of Tilos and the members of the TILOS consortium.
2. Can you explain the main technologies used by the project?
The TILOS smart microgrid and hybrid power station consists of the following main components:
- A single wind turbine with an output of 800kW and solar panels with an output of 160kW
- A prototype battery storage system for storing excess energy generated on very sunny or windy days until it is needed (NaNiCl2 battery storage of 2.88MWh / 800kW and advanced battery inverters)
- Smart meter and demand side management (DSM) devices to allow energy monitoring and short-term energy management in local homes and centralised loads such as pumping stations
- An Energy Management System (EMS) that will coordinate operation of the entire TILOS system.
3. How has the project changed the lives of people living on the island?
So far, a total of 50 smart meters and DSM panel devices have been installed in local homes, with another 100 planned for installation in the next couple of months. The devices allow for real time monitoring of electricity consumption as well as for remote control of certain electricity loads, which in turn enables the application of DSM strategies that encourage people to use less energy at peak times. Several training seminars have been held to help the local population fully exploit the potential of smart meters and DSM devices for energy saving and optimal electricity use. At the same time, the people of Tilos are benefiting from the increased visibility of the project. It is attracting more tourists and putting the island on the daily news agenda.
4. What does winning two EU Sustainable Energy Awards mean to you?
Winning two EU Sustainable Energy awards is something very special for all of us at the TILOS project. We cannot think of a greater honour than being endorsed by more than 10000 people across Europe (considering that only 400 people live on Tilos!), which makes the Citizens' Award even more special. At the same time, given that ensuring that islands have access to clean energy is an important priority of the European Commission, we are proud that TILOS received the Energy Islands award. This makes Tilos a potential blueprint for other island regions that depend on oil imports and believe in energy autonomy based on clean energy solutions. Combining technical excellence and innovation with public acceptance is the way forward, and this is the message that we appreciated after winning these two very distinctive awards.
5. What are the future plans for the TILOS project?
In the short term, commissioning of the system is due to be completed by the end of 2017, with operations beginning in demonstration mode early in 2018 and lasting for an entire year. During this time different modes of operation will be tested for the smart energy microgrid on Tilos island. In the long term, the goal is for local people to create an energy cooperative that will allow the system to progress, offering close to 100% energy autonomy for the entire island of Tilos (the current TILOS system is expected to provide around 70%-75%).