The history of science is inextricably linked to the Galapagos and its influence on Darwin. In 2001, an oil tanker hit a reef in the Galapagos Islands and spilled potentially disastrous amounts of oil on one of the world’s most historic nature reserves. Today, the Galapagos are starting down a path to do away with imported oil. Ecuador, which owns the islands, recently installed three wind turbines, in cooperation with the UN and major energy companies. Wind power will replace half of the diesel previously needed. But there are challenges.
First, the electrical grid must be updated to accommodate the intermittent power supplied by wind. And there are also ecological issues. One of the original proposed sites contained nests of birds known as petrels. But after they moved the site, researchers realized they knew little about the flight patterns of petrels. So they initiated a study. Once it was determined that the birds would fly safely out of the way of giant turbine blades, construction began. The addition of solar power could make the Galapagos nearly energy independent by 2015—and free from any further oil spills.