Palmyra Atoll

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A $1.2 million project brings renewable energy to Palmyra.

Palmyra Atoll

Located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii, Palmyra Atoll is a scientific research station and national wildlife refuge co-owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2015, the Conservancy completed a $1.2 million renewable energy project at Palmyra, installing solar and wind systems that will reduce its dependence on fossil fuels by 95%.

Marine wilderness

Palmyra is one of the most spectacular marine wilderness areas on Earth. The 680-acre atoll is surrounded by 16,000 acres of lagoons, submerged lands and some of the world’s most intact coral reefs.

Seabird colony

The atoll is also home to more than a million nesting seabirds, which use it as a way station on long Pacific journeys. Due to the risk of bird strikes, conventional wind turbines were not an option at Palmyra.

Shipping the wind turbine

All machines and project materials had to be shipped from Honolulu to the atoll, including the wind turbine. With a new renewable energy system, the Conservancy will no longer have the expense or risk of annually shipping 21,000 gallons of diesel fuel to power atoll generators.

Venturi technology

Palmyra’s wind turbine is a prototype design developed by the Minnesota firm SheerWind. Its Invelox Venturi technology increases wind speed three to six times, with nets over the intake and enclosed blades that keep it bird friendly.

Project leaders

Jake Freeman (left), president of Maui-based CDF Engineering, and David Sellers, the Conservancy’s acting Palmyra Program director, led the renewable energy project, with Freeman donating $120,000 of CDF staff labor to the effort.

Solar ground mount

Almost 400 solar panels were installed on Palmyra, including 126 panels on the "ground mount," a large concrete slab left over from the Second World War.

Solar roof panels

Solar panels were also placed atop three buildings, with solar hot water modules installed above the galley and shower facility.

Battery room

Palmyra’s new deep-cycle battery system stores sunlight for use at night. The system has 216 batteries, each weighing 200 pounds.

Repairing the wind turbine

When the wind turbine was damaged during off-loading at Palmyra Atoll, Sellers spent four days welding the damaged portions back into shape.

Erecting the intake and exhaust rings

Installation of the wind turbine began with erecting and stabilizing the steel intake and exhaust rings.

Green-canvas wind scoops

Palmyra’s prototype wind turbine resembles an hour-glass turned on its side. It extends 83 feet horizontally with big, green-canvas wind scoops at either end.

Energy at night

Installation of the new wind turbine will help power the station at night and on cloudy days. It provides Palmyra with an additional power source, which is important in a remote location. For extra backup, the Conservancy maintains a three-year supply of bio-diesel made from 100% recycled vegetable oil to run  existing generators.

Completed wind turbine

Completion of the renewable energy system all but eliminates Palmyra’s carbon footprint. “We have basically locked in 20 years of low-cost energy and made the station economically and environmentally sustainable,” says Sellers. “We can now focus on what we do best — conservation and scientific research to inform that conservation.”


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