▲ The view from Gapado with Mt. Songak, Mt. Sanbang and Mt. Halla in the background. Photo by Douglas MacDonald
Gapado is an island off of Jeju’s extreme southwest tip. Through sailors such as Dutchman Hendrik Hamel, it was probably one of the first Korean territories to be known by Western powers. It is home to just 250 people and covers an area of 0.87 square kilometers in Daejeong-eup, yet it is unique in Jeju and possibly the nation.
What sets Gapado apart is its mission to be carbon free, energy independent and environmentally protected. The vision was first set out in 2008 by a group of citizens dedicated to the island, Gasamo, now known as the non-profit International Green Island Forum (IGIF). The group held its first forum in September 2013 and, although young, the carbon-free mission is showing promising progress.
A number of changes have already taken place on the island. Electric motorbikes and bicycles can now be seen alongside electric-powered cars which have replaced prohibited fossil-fueled cars. Agricultural machinery and fishing boats are also under process of electrification and electricity fuel infrastructure is under construction.
Gapado residents once relied on diesel generators and limited solar power for energy, yet by February a new electrical energy storage facility will provide an alternative to diesel, which will continue to be used only in emergency situations. For the project, 132 utility poles have been cleared and replaced by an underground cable network.
The Gapado project should allow for the full utilization of the island’s abundant wind and solar resources. Two wind power generators manufactured in India were installed in Sept. 2012, each with a 250 KW capacity, and solar generators have been connected to a smart meter and smart system on the electricity grid.
The wide-ranging project first took off with a 2011 agreement between Jeju Self-Governing Province and Korea Southern Power Co. (KOSPO), a Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) affiliate. A completion date of Oct. 2013 was set and the endeavor to make Gapado carbon free gathered pace.
Several other groups joined the mission and the initial project plans attracted 99 billion won in support. Investors included: KEPCO, 4 billion won; KOSPO, 2.5 billion won; Jeju Self-Governing
Province, 1.5 billion won; and smaller amounts from WOOJIN Industrial Systems Co., Ltd., KEPCO KDN and Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co., Ltd.
Since teething problems were identified and remedied - as detailed below - the project has received additional govern-ment and private sector support. 1.4 billion won in funding was received from the government in Seoul for a 1,000 KWh lithium-ion Samsung SDI battery and a Hyosung 1,000 KW power converter, both to be installed by Jan. 2014.
A presentation outlining the plans was made at the World Conservation Congress (WCC) in 2012 and it was received favorably. WCC officials were interested in both preservation of the island and in using more advanced technologies through collaboration with several companies. The project seemed to be nearing completion, yet many obstacles remained.
Criticism rained in when it was discovered that a wind power generator was faulty, producing below the 2 Mw electricity required to power the island. Official tests confirmed a 1 Mw storage capacity, causing serious conflict as the project neared its completion date in Oct. 2013. Jeju citizens criticized local authorities for mismanagement of the project, yet the province responded by insisting such minor problems were inevitable for such an ambitious scheme.
Consultations with citizens and interested parties were held and coun-termeasures were tabled in recognition of the importance of the groundbreaking project. The province announced it would invest an additional 250 million won and technical experts were called in from India to service the faulty wind power generator manufactured by India-based SIVA Co., Ltd.
By October of last year it was found that the generators worked soundly in wind speeds of under 14m/s, but were unstable in speeds exceeding that. After further investigation, engineers announced in November the faults had been fixed; however, a testing period will continue until early this year.
Jeju Self-Governing Province remains passionate about the carbon-free project and maintains plans for Jeju itself to be carbon free by 2030. Headway has already been made in this respect and in 2008 a Smart Grid Testbed was installed in Gujwa-eup and 300 electricity fuel stations have also been provided across the island. Authorities hope the project can be an inspiration for carbon-neutral projects worldwide.
Korea has benefited greatly from KEPCO being the sole electricity trans-mission, transformation and distribution facilitator. Jeju’s abundant renewable energy resources in wind and solar have also been crucial as has the island’s commitment to carbon neutrality. Not least, Gapado’s contained systems have proved invaluable for incubating renewable energy technologies on the island.
The obstacles outlined suggest that the project has many challenges ahead to be overcome, but it is hoped that Gapado can eventually serve as a carbon-free community model to be exported worldwide.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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