The beautiful Greek island of Tilos in the Dodecanese archipelago has become the first in the entire Mediterranean to become fully self-sufficient in energy, thanks to a strong investment in renewables.
With a population of just over 500 people, with the addition of 13,000 tourists a year, Tilos was the first out of 80 total projects chosen to receive funding under an EU program called “Horizon 2020.”
The main goal of the Tilos project was the creation of Greece’s first hybrid power station, which produces energy from its very own wind farm and solar power generators that it later stores in batteries.
With the project now completed, Tilos can boast of becoming completely self-sufficient in energy.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved,” Maria Kamma- Aliferi, the mayor of the island, told Greek Reporter. “Our success is a lesson for all island communities in Greece.”
By producing its own power, entirely derived from renewable energy sources, the island has significantly reduced its own carbon footprint while simultaneously reducing the costs carried by the local people.
“The benefits to the islanders will soon be made apparent as their electricity bills will be reduced,” Kamma-Aliferi tells us.
The island, connected until now to the power grid of the nearby island of Kos, had in the past experienced huge power fluctuations and frequent black-outs which, apart from being a constant irritant, caused damage to the island’s infrastructure and the tourism industry.
“Before we achieved energy self-sufficiency, black-outs were a regular phenomenon. They were occurring perhaps twice a week. We have eliminated this problem with the hybrid power station,” the mayor says.
The solar panels installed in the center of the island have a maximum capacity of 400 Kilowatts. Wind power facilities, located just opposite the Turkish coast, generate an estimated 800 Kw of energy. The mayor points out that the all the unused energy, which is stored in batteries, can be used for other kinds of initiatives and projects as well.
“We introduced a charging station for electric vehicles on the island. Drivers can use it free of charge. We also use spare solar energy to lighten up our promenade and municipal buildings,” Kamma-Aliferi notes. The mayor adds that the municipal authority is now even in a position to make a profit by selling its excess energy to the Greek Public Cooperation (DEI).
The island, which was declared a natural park and registered in the European Network for the Protection of the Environment Natura 2000 since 2006, is going through a complete regeneration, says the mayor.
Kamma-Aliferi remembers her younger years in the early ’90s when the conditions on the island were “atrocious.” There were only 273 permanent residents, a primary school with only twelve students, no health care, and frequent power losses. On top of all of that, during the winter months ferry service was irregular, depending on the weather.
“Things are now changing. We are witnessing the miracle of Tilos,” she says proudly, adding that energy self-sufficiency will only help the island grow. “Our goal is to convince people to return to the island and achieve more than 1,000 permanent residents. Also, to attract high-quality tourism and extend the tourist season from May to late October.”
The islanders, she says, have embraced the concept that growth can only be viable if it respects the environment, noting “there has been a culture switch on the island.” Most islanders fully support initiatives which would reduce its carbon footprint even further.
Kamma-Aliferi told Greek Reporter “I feel proud that I was part of the efforts to invigorate the island. Now, I feel that I have an added responsibility… It is easier to climb to the top, but more difficult to remain there. People expect more and more when you achieve something.”