Stephen Connors

MIT Portugal Program leaders in Sustainable Energy Systems promoted a groundbreaking new project that could change the way islands, like the Azores, utilize their energy resources at the AmbiTech Azores 2008 conference on July 9-11.

The Green Islands Project, which will involve the Azores and other islands and urban-islands around the globe, intends to develop new methodologies to identify cost-effective sustainable energy solutions and options utilizing natural resources that are indigenous to these areas.

Stephen Connors, MIT Research Engineer for the MIT Portugal Program and Paulo Ferrão,MIT Portugal Program Director in Portugal and Sustainable Energy Systems Co-Lead, were both keynote speakers at the conference where they discussed MIT Portugal’s energy research in general and the Green Islands Project specifically. Also presenting was Prof. João Peças Lopes of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto, another leader of the Green Islands Project.

Prof.  Paulo  Ferrão

“Over the last year, the MIT Portugal Program has been developing a diverse set of research, educational and outreach activities that are both “green” and “smart,” said Connors. “As the program’s lead project, the Green Islands initiative goes beyond the focus of green, smart technologies and also considers local energy needs and local energy supplies.”

Connors explains that beyond new technologies, communities, whether islands or cities, need to develop new methodologies to identify sustainable energy pathways that can meet society’s needs for real solutions to economic and environmental challenges.

Beginning with the islands of São Miguel and Flores, the MIT-Portugal Program has redirected a portion of its current and future research portfolio to exploring sustainable options for the Azores.

The MIT Portugal Green Islands Project will be collecting detailed information on how the Azores currently uses energy, how they might use it in the future, and the characteristics of the islands’ numerous indigenous energy resources. In recognizing that research must include local knowledge and expertise, the project will include a dialogue and stakeholder process that includes interested businesses, the government and academic institutions.

“The Green Island Project is a concept with a long-term vision for the islands–preserving their unique culture and lifestyle– and this is incorporated into the design of the islands’ future energy system, against a background of local and global economic, environmental and technological trends”

Ferrão said. Connors added, ‘The world is facing daunting challenges when it comes to managing the transformation of its energy systems, using energy and other resources more wisely, while relying more and more on local, renewable resources. Doing so in an environmentally responsible manner is paramount not only for a healthy ecosystem, but a robust economy and society.”

MIT Portugal researchers hope that the Green Islands Project will bring the world closer to the energy and environmental solutions it needs.