Energy & Climate Change

28 | February | 2014

Use of renewable energy to boost agriculture in Easter Island.

The initiative of The Regional Government of Valparaiso and Fundación Chile, which lasts for 12 months, aims to develop with the support of relevant stakeholders on the island.
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The agricultural sector in Easter Island has experienced a significant increase in the variation of its products to grow; this is for the explosive migration of continental Chile to the island and its respective demand.

Formerly on the island, people cultivated: potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and taro, watermelon, pumpkin, pineapple; all the plants which require minimal water for its development. The water was obtained from the rain.

With tourism development of the Island, also came an increase in the agricultural sector. The islanders also wanted to produce fruits and vegetables demanded by the population, but these products require a lot of water in their growth process. That is why; local farmers have based their activities in rained farming, hoping that the rain will water effectively a large percentage of their productions. However, this works best only 6 months a year with eventual rainy season (from May to October). The rest of the year should be watered with drinking water, which means they spend a lot of money on this item, increasing the cost of production and stagnating the agricultural development of the Island.

Given this context, The Regional Government of Valparaiso along with Fundación Chile and the support of the National Clean Production Council (NCPC); will develop the project "Innovative technology of nanofiltration with solar energy for water conditioning, aimed to boost the agribusiness in Easter Island", based on the use of membranes and photovoltaic systems.

Our foundation has developed prototypes, which have allowed us to study the behavior of a membrane system in conjunction with a solar photovoltaic system for the design of irrigation water. In this framework, this project aims to develop an innovative technology of nanofiltration membranes using the same concept of incorporating solar energy for the production of irrigation water from seawater. This will manage the demand of this resource for the proper development of agriculture on the island, adapting technology to weather conditions and its specific operation.

The focus of this development is the energy efficiency and the use of solar energy. Thus, this project includes a production process of irrigation water using membrane separation technologies with low energy consumption, simple in its construction and operation.

In this way, the project aims to develop, with the support of relevant stakeholders on the island - such as the Clean Production Council, and local farmers - a new technological solution to boost agriculture activity, generating sustainable energy matrix (renewable energy) and managing available resources for its use in agricultural production activities with higher added value.

Between January 24th and 30th, our foundation presented the project to the authorities and stakeholders of the Island, starting the first stage of information base, which will set out clearly the conditions and technical requirements to be considered for later stages of the project.