Over the next year and a half French carmaker Renault will work to transform a tiny island off the coast of Portugal into a pioneer in green electricity technologies.
Under a new project launched last week in partnership with the island's local electricity supplier Empresa de Electricitade da Madeira (EEM), Renault plans to use electric cars, renewables, and smart grid technologies to fully transition Porto Santo's electricity system from fossil fuel power to green energy.
Porto Santo, one of the two inhabited islands in the Madeira archipelago, spans just 42 square kilometres and is home to around 5,500 people. Historically the island has mainly relied on diesel generation and a small amount of wind power, but it has plans to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy over the next two decades.
The Smart Fossil Free Island project will see Porto Santo roll out more renewable electricity capacity, storage and smart grid technologies, as well as energy efficiency measures and electric vehicles to eventually wean its economy off fossil fuels entirely.
Renault said it will provide a fleet of electric ZOE and Kangoo cars for island residents, as well as install smart charging points on Porto Santo so the car batteries can charge when renewable power is abundant.
Then later this year the cars will start feeding energy back into the grid when needed - a system known as vehicle-to-grid technology - to deliver electricity during peak hours.
Old EV batteries will also be used to build stationary battery banks to store excess power from wind and solar plants.
The 18-month Renault-led project involves a number of other energy players including Bouygues Energies et Services, The Mobility House, and ABB.
Renault said it hopes the scheme will help inform the design of smart grids back on the mainland.
"We are delighted to be teaming up with EEM to establish this unprecedented smart electric ecosystem which demonstrates to what extent the electric revolution is changing our everyday lives beyond just transport," said Eric Feunteun, electric vehicles and new business programme director at the auto giant. "Our aim is to build a model that can be carried over to other islands, eco-districts and cities, while consistently striving to achieve large-scale rollout of electric mobility solutions that are affordable for all."
Islands provide an ideal environment for the energy sector to experiment with new forms of supply and distribution, offering a small-scale, contained system that can act as a test bed for new technologies.
Similar projects are already underway elsewhere, including on the UK's Scilly Isles, where battery specialists Moixa has teamed up with engineering giant Hitachi to develop a smarter energy system for the archipelago.
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