Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, home to one of the Earth’s most precious ecosystems, are renowned as one of the places Charles Darwin visited when forming his theory of evolution. Energy sources in the Galapagos are going through their own evolution.Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada – September 19, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] A recent oil spill which dumped thousands of gallons of fuel into the fragile waters helped thrust the environmental problems inherent with generating nearly all of the island’s power, and fueling boats through imported fossil fuels, into the publics’ eye. The accident has helped further an increasing awareness that renewable energy systems can operate in concert with the island’s ecology in a way that their fossil fuel counterparts could never match. One recent example of this trend toward renewable energy on the islands is a new 18-person Catamaran designed for eco-tourism and that was retrofitted with 20 Shell Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, two Xantrex SW 4048J inverter/chargers for on-board power. The father and son team of Guillermo and Alejandro Botta lead a group of craftsmen from Guayaquil, Ecuador, in the construction of the solar-powered catamaran, a first for Ecuador’s naval industry. The vessel is used to ferry tourists through the Galapagos Islands and includes a dive platform for scuba diving. Because the Archipell sails in a highly-sensitive ecosystem, the team decided to build it using a fiberglass hull and solar powered electric motors. The increased weight of a steel hull would have put additional strain on the solar-powered motors as well. Twenty solar panels placed across the roof charge a bank of batteries and are connected to the Xantrex inverters which in turn supply electricity to operate the vessel. The company said construction of the solar-powered ship has been described as a milestone for Ecuador’s shipbuilding industry. “This is a wonderful success story,” said Oscar Ibarra, director of sales for Xantrex in Latin America. “The Archipell shows that renewable energy applications are endless and that using Xantrex products is economical and ecologically practical. We can’t think of a better way to recognize the ecological sensitivity of the Galapagos Islands while supporting the area’s eco-tourism industry.” Xantrex, offers five types of products for the marine market – inverters, battery chargers, inverter/charger combinations, system accessories and power packs. All are built specifically to withstand the rigors of the marine environment, many carrying UL and CE approval listings.