According to the Amsterdam Treaty, declaration No. 30, “…insular regions suffer from structural handicaps linked to their island status, the permanence of which impairs their economic and social development“. In this regard, satisfaction of vital needs for most of these regions relies on strong dependence bonds with supply networks (normally being mainland-based) of questionable efficiency, both in terms of supply security and costs. Of major significance in this debate, energy and water resources undergoing severe stresses on and off in many island regions produce volatile conditions in all aspects of everyday life, damaging the local economy and development prospects of these communities. In this context, size and distance issues are as easily understood critical, with smaller and far-distant (from supply centres) island regions being more vulnerable. At the same time, vulnerability of the local landscape and the cultural heritage in many of these areas dictates investigation of minimum impact and low-intensity solutions that can conform to the local environment distinct characteristics.
To face the situation encountered, adaptation to sustainable schemes of RES-based development could reboot the local economy and foster new economic activities, including also new types of tourist patterns that could benefit from the promotion of green-island characteristics. At the same time, acknowledging that failure to promote large scale diffusion of RES in these systems so far is related –among other reasons- with the development of plans bringing forward partial-only solutions for the problem investigated, dealing with the problem in its entity is believed to allow for hidden benefits of RES exploitation to be designated. In this regard, the concept of the proposed project is based on the development of an integrated planning tool for the long-term satisfaction of total energy and water needs in small and medium size non-interconnected island regions of the Aegean Archipelagos, with the use of optimum RES-based hybrid systems. In this regard, relevance of the project scope with topic needs is reflected in the most straightforward way, with optimum use of RES for the satisfaction of energy and water needs both offering new development opportunities and relieving the State budget from the current cost of fuel imports and water transport. More specifically, development of appropriate hybrid RES-based solutions that in combination with innovative elements (e.g. RES-based seawater desalination, use of advanced energy storage technologies, application of demand side management strategies, introduction of electric and/or hydrogen-based vehicles, consideration of low intensity interconnection works between neighbouring island regions and development of Geographical Information System (GIS) siting support tools) may reform the current structures of energy and water supply in these island regions, was the main objective of the specific project. Moreover, among the primary objectives of the research project was the upgrade of an already existing, small scale hybrid RES-based power station that is being operated by the research team of the host organization, i.e. the Soft Energy and Environmental Protection Lab of Piraeus University of Applied Sciences. Installation of a desalination unit and additional equipment components in order to properly simulate the operation of a typical island’s energy and water flows shall allow the experimental evaluation of the problem investigated. In addition to that, development of simulation and decision support tools for the installation of hybrid-RES based systems, facilitating both energy and water desalination needs, is also among the project objectives. Finally, of analogous importance, the elaboration of a valuation framework for the performance assessment of such schemes is expected to produce the necessary policy measures and support mechanisms for their promotion and implementation.