Gapado-world's first carbon-free island

Earth Care Optimized
Jeju, Korea

Gapado-world's first carbon-free island

Gapado is a small island hewn out of the remnants of lava rocks that were strewn all around between Korea and Japan following an eruption when the earth was young. The first inhabitants probably came to Gapado some 10,000 years ago. Stone megaliths of prehistoric humans greet one everywhere in Gapado and remind visitors of the islands possibly important role at the dawn of human civilisation .

Winds dominate Jeju and Gapado. These may be benign or stormy, depending on the time of the year. The role of wind in the lives of the inhabitants of Jeju - and Gapado - can be gauged by the 40 different terms used by the islanders for different types of wind. Typhoons are common and may cause intense havoc in the absence of very little defence against wind intensity. Often, one comes across broken tourist galleries and the like that are reminiscent of periodic storms that regularly rent apart the island, especially since it lies in the middle of the ocean with nothing to break the path of oceanic winds.

Today, these same characteristics are being used to make Gapado carbon-free. Of course, this is in line with Korean Republics President Lee Chun Baks bouquet of initiatives to make the country free of greenhouse gases.

As one steps onto the quay and boards the steamer for Gapado, the dark blue of the seas and the looming volcanic mountains strike you in their majesty. Peculiar shapes, dark and stony, greet you in all directions.

An hour or so later, you find yourself in Gapado. At first sight, the neat jetty seems no different from any other in South Korea. The lava stones lining the outskirts are a veritable part of Jeju landscape and remnants of shamanism all over are as integral to Gapado as the rest of Jeju. The stone shrines with flags fluttering beside them hark back to an era when lack of healthcare and the prevalence of smallpox had locals fall back on black magic and witchcraft to drive disease away. In fact, shamanic rites to the wind and the wind spirit-Grandmother Yeongdeung are so ingrained in the culture that UNESCO has designated it as an intangible cultural heritage.

An electric pole lit by a hybrid of wind and solar energy prepares you for what is in store. As you move further, you are greeted by a swarm of electric cars meant to drive visitors around. The neat cottages all around this island of 290 inhabitants have solar panels as part of their rooftop dcor.

Since strong winds are a veritable part of Jeju and its southern offshoot Gapado, the wind turbines generate a steady stream of wind power. The ideal wind speed to run a wind turbine ranges from 4-25 metre per second. Generally, Gapado boasts an average speed of 14 metres per second. This suffices for the generation of 250 MW per turbine. Thus, 500 MW is generated for the population through wind power which meets 90 per cent of the islands needs.

There are two huge wind turbines that supply the needs of the islands inhabitants while solar panels on every rooftop do the rest. The local school uses the latest solar technology to run its needs while celestial nymphs from Buddhist tradition and stone holmeins (grandfathers) are lined up in the extensive grounds. Most schools are run by the government and lunches comprise organic food grown within or around the school premises.

Stone-lined olle (walking paths) run all along the island with paleolithic megaliths or stone sandam clusters bearing testimony to the islands prehistoric past.

Until just a couple of years ago, solar panels supplied 7 per cent of Gapados energy needs. This changed with the setting up of two wind energy turbines at a cost of 10 billion Won (US$ 8.6 million) this year.

The carbon-free status of Gapado has been achieved (and being) managed by the Smart Grid Division of Jeju Self-Governing Province and is part of a larger plan to make the whole of Jeju carbon-free. By 2030, Jeju will be totally run by renewable energy technology.

The conversion to renewable energy and the carbon-free status has been planned in stages, according to Lee Ji Hoon of the Jeju Self-Governing Province Smart Grid Division. Thus, by 2020, more than 50 per cent of Jejus needs will be powered by renewable energy while total conversion to carbon-free technologies will be achieved by 2030. Gapado will serve as a model in this journey to self-sustained, carbon-free status, according to officials.

The plan is in line with Jeju provincial Governor Woo Keun Mins agenda to use the Smart Grid industry as a future growth engine for Jeju and the entire Republic of Korea.

The replacement of all fossil fuels in Jeju with renewable energy is intended to be effected by utilising wind turbines on land and at sea, solar energy and adequate electrical storage facilities. By 2020, 68 per cent of Jeju's energy needs will be met through sea wind turbines of one gigawatt capacity, land-based wind turbines amounting to 300 MW capacity, with solar panels supplying another 30 MW to the islanders. According to a government press release, even vehicles, farming machinery and fishing trawlers are sought to be replaced with their electric-powered counterparts.

The basic requirements of a seafaring nation that made independent Tamna prosper for a century before it became a part of Korea during the Joseon dynasty, continue to be a draw until this day. The Kuro Shio warm ocean current keeps Jejus ports humming with activity through the year despite its location in the northern latitudes. The volcanic landscape, lava stones, corals, beautiful waterfalls and the unique Gotjawal forests containing plant species encompassing the northern and southern biodiversity limits make it popular with film crews in the Far East and tourism remains the mainstay of Jeju's provincial economy.

Only now, the endeavour to create and sustain a carbon-free island in a world in search of solutions to global warming and climate change is arguably set to be a more topical draw for millions. The original story can be accessed here:

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