Low-lying nation turns to wind to ward off the sea
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Low-lying nation turns to wind to ward off the sea

The Maldives announced plans Monday to build a wind farm that can supply 40 percent of its electricity as part of the low-lying archipelago’s pledge to become the world’s first carbon neutral nation.

The plan is intended to spur other countries to make similar commitments to renewable energy and to cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, President Mohamed Nasheed told The Associated Press.

“What we are trying to do is say that renewable energy works,” Nasheed said. “I’m saying it can be done everywhere.”

The archipelago, the world’s lowest lying nation and at substantial threat from rising sea levels, has become an important voice in the fight against climate change ahead of international talks in Copenhagen next month.

The nation of 1,192 coral islands is heavily dependent on oil imports to fuel generators and is increasingly reliant on energy-intensive desalination plants.

The $200 million wind project, to be built by General Electric by mid-2011, will create a farm of 30 large wind turbines 65 km north of the capital, Male, government officials said. It was not clear if the turbines would be on land or on the sea bed.

The farm will supply 75 megawatts of electricity, roughly 40 percent of the country’s needs, and cut overall carbon emissions by 25 percent, according to Chris Goodall, a British environmental activist and researcher.

Underwater cables will connect the wind farm with Male, where more than 100,000 people live, and surrounding islands, as well as 24 resort islands, according to Falcon Energy, which is managing the project.

Excess energy will be diverted to a desalination plant, and a liquefied natural gas plant will provide backup power for less windy days.

Nasheed, 42, has pledged to make the country of 350,000 people carbon neutral within a decade and said the government is studying the viability of other forms of renewable energy, including hydropower and solar power. Carbon dioxide, produced by the burning of fossil fuels, is one of the main greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Since winning the Maldives’ first democratic election last year, Nasheed, 42, has worked to highlight his nation’s plight. He said his government will put aside money to buy land abroad should his country be swamped by rising sea levels, and his Cabinet held an underwater meeting to raise awareness of the issue.

However, critics from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, which ruled the Maldives for 30 years, say Nasheed’s efforts to bring climate change awareness are sending the wrong message.

“When the head of state comes and says, ‘I want another land to escape to,’ it’s not good news for investors,” said Abdulla Mausoom, secretary general of the opposition party.

Associated Press