In recent years the country of Greece has made the news, particularly the financial news, for all the wrong reasons. While it has survived several financial crises, what many people do not realize is the many challenges the country faces due to its unique geographical makeup. For example, while the state of Hawaii is made up of hundreds of islands with few actually populated, hundreds of the islands of Greece are populated. Every island is a part of the country and thus entitled to share the natural resources of the country.
Of course, the physical size of each island varies, and in the 21st century electricity is an essential part of modern life. While in countries like the United States the challenges to supplying electric power come from scaling mountainous regions and connecting to remote locations, Greece has to deal with crossing seas that can separate islands by a few miles or 100 miles. In some situations it is like trying to supply Hawaii with electricity from the coast of California.
Power cells have been used in a variety of industries for decades, with improvements in size, power generation, and efficiency. Tesla now is looking into a project that will supply individual islands with their own power source, bringing the possibility of power independence to the residents scattered across the hundreds of islands.
Two key technologies that have benefited industry have the potential to be applied on the scale of an entire country. The storage of energy in batteries and cells, and the increased efficiency of solar panels are what Tesla has planned to help Greece generate the power its needs that will enable it to improve socially and economically. Few people have noticed that Tesla has already ventured into these waters on a smaller scale. In 2016 Tesla used its Powerpack technology on the island of America Samoa, and when Puerto Rico went dark in the aftermath of consecutive hurricane strikes the same Tesla Powerpacks were set up to assist the territory’s recovery efforts.
The island of Limnos has been selected to begin a pilot program and test whether implementing the technology on a larger scale is feasible. Limnos is Greece’s 8th largest island, with a total land mass of 184 square miles, and relatively small in its demand for electricity during the summer. The plan is to create solar farms that will generate enough energy to power communities, with the excess being stored in batteries to be distributed elsewhere or retained for future use.
While Limnos has been chosen, the geographic location of the entire country makes it a superb candidate for solar power generation. It has about 300 days of sunshine each year, and its latitudinal location allows the sun to strike at the right angle to make solar energy a preferable alternative energy source.
Examining the cost benefits of making the change from fossil fuels to the solar-storage approach is in order. As a member of the Paris Accord, Greece continues to seek ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and solar is a step in the right direction. The national health costs for dealing with the consequences of fossil fuels will be greatly reduced, helping the country to advance on its road to economic stability more quickly.
The cost of mining and processing fossil fuels, including diesel which powers more than a few islands, can be significantly reduced. Critics maintain that such a change will result in the loss of jobs, but the number of jobs that will be created by the new abundance of electricity will more than likely offset those losses while promoting new industries made possible by the increased amount of available electricity. It is worth noting here that the state of Hawaii uses oil/diesel to provide more than 70% of its power.
What is left to consider on the subject of costs is the initial cost to set up the solar farms and storage units. Given Greece’s aforementioned financial problems, it is likely Tesla would have to cut some type of long term deal to provide the technology. It is also possible that Limnos was chosen to determine how adding the new technology would impact the number of new jobs created. It has a population of just over 80,000 people, slightly more than the size of an average American city. Should there be more jobs created than lost, this would be of more financial comfort to Tesla than any dependence on Greece’s future economic growth sans the new power units.
Currently there seems to be some delay in getting the Limnos experiment underway. When things begin to move forward it is worth watching, as both the futures of Tesla and of Greece may depend on the success of the Limnos Experiment.