Journal of Green Engineering

Vol: 8    Issue: 3

Published In:   July 2018

Wind Energy Development in Small Islands

Article No: 4    Page: 283-300    doi: https://doi.org/10.13052/jge1904-4720.834    

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Wind Energy Development in Small Islands

A. R. Zahari1,*, S. Z. M. Daud1, N. A. Zakaria1, T. M. F. T. Ibrahim2 and Chandima Gomes3

1Department of Aerospace Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Malaysia

2Department of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Malaysia

3Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Malaysia

Corresponding Author: raofzahari@gmail.com

Received 19 September 2018; Accepted 27 September 2018;
Publication 15 October 2018

Abstract

The focus of a majority of onshore and offshore wind energy development is getting high economic returns rather than crafting an independent and sustainable power supply such as those for small islands. The total installed wind power capacity across continental Asia, Europe and North America was 95% of the global installations in 2016 whereas Caribbean Islands and Latin America only recorded 3% and Pacific Islands merely 1%. This paper analyses the development and policies of wind energy across Asia, Europe and North America to show the high economic concentration at onshore and offshore platforms without realizing the social needs of small islands. Based on the analysis, several recommendations have been proposed for the future development of wind energy plants in small islands.

Keywords

  • Renewable energy
  • Wind energy
  • Economic returns
  • Wind turbine
  • Small islands
  • Caribbean and Pacific

1 Introduction

Energy efficiency and low carbon strategies have attracted a lot of concerns. For environmentalists, anthropogenic climate change has drawn their anxieties on the behaviour of energy industrial players and policy-makers. The demand for alternative energy resources to substitute fossil fuels was responded with contemporary technologies and fresh policies on renewable energy [1]. Amongst others, the technologies to generate renewable energy are hydroelectric dam, solar panel, wind turbine, geothermal station and biomass refinery, while the intervening policies include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement and national energy policies worldwide.

Due to the rapid development of renewable energy, wind energy has been revived to become one of the alternative energy resources in the world. Windmill has been used for ages to grind crops and pump water. It was the backbone of agricultural production in Europe [1]. Nowadays, the wind turbine is generating a tremendous amount of electrical power in many parts of the world. Most of the wind turbines are located in highland or coastal area, where the wind potential is prominent and can be integrated with the main power grid [2].

Actually, the latent demand for wind energy plants would be at small islands where their remote locations require independent off-grid power. The conventional setup of using diesel-electric generators to generate off-grid power for small islands is not sustainable due to the limited supply of diesel. Therefore, although there are already many studies which have covered the wind energy utilization at onshore and offshore locations [35], a comprehensive documentation is required on the development of wind energy in crafting an independent and sustainable power supply for small islands. The wind energy potential in small islands has been briefly addressed by [6], however, their discussion does not cover the scopes of wind energy potentials in small islands adequately. This paper, which is developed to fulfil that gap, will provide an analysis of wind energy, in terms of development and policies, based on the world top three regional markets. It will be followed by a discussion about the development of wind energy in small islands and recommendations for the future.

2 Information Analysis

The information analysis will explore the direction and extent of the wind energy development around the world. This is an important starting point in order to consider the motivation for the prevailing development. The analysis will be done in two areas which are the regional wind energy development and the regional wind energy policies.

2.1 Regional Wind Energy Development

Since the pressure for renewable energy increased more than two decades ago with the formation of the UNFCCC, wind energy has taken the role of supplementary power producer worldwide together with hydro, solar, geothermal and biomass energies. At the end of 2016, the total installed wind power capacity worldwide was 486,790 MW [7]. The high number of wind turbine installations was mainly contributed by the top three wind energy regional markets in the world which are Asia, Europe and North America. Altogether, these three regions represented a remarkable 95% of the total installations in the world. Figure 1 shows a pie chart representing the total installed wind power capacity by regional distribution at the end of 2016. This section highlights the wind energy development of the top three countries for each of the top three regional markets based on their wind power potentials and total installed capacities.

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Figure 1 Total installed wind power capacity by regional distribution at the end of 2016.

Asian region was the top market for wind energy in 2016. In Asia, the top three countries which utilized wind energy are China, India and Japan. In fact, China is the top leader in global wind energy development. A study mentioned that the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) had estimated the capacity of wind power to be 3,200,000 MW but can be exploited up to 253,000 MW over the onshore area and 750,000 MW over the offshore area [8]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in China was 168,732 MW [7]. In India, a study mentioned that the capacity of wind power is around 480,000 MW which is 130,000 MW over the onshore area and 350,000 MW over the offshore area [9]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in India was 28,700 MW [7]. As for Japan, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) predicted the capacity of wind power is between 280,000 to 290,000 MW over the onshore area and between 1,500,000 to 1,600,000 MW over the offshore area, while the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) predicted the capacity to be 150,000 MW over the onshore area and 400,000 MW over the offshore area [10]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in Japan was3,234 MW [7].

Europe was the second highest market for wind energy in 2016. The top three European countries which utilized wind energy are Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom (UK). Germany is currently in the third place in global wind energy development. A study by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) found that the capacity of wind power is 1,190,000 MW over the onshore area, while another study by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) predicted that the capacity of wind power is 367,000 MW over the onshore area [11]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in Germany was 50,018 MW [7]. In Spain, the Institute for Diversification and Energy Saving (IDAE) predicted that the capacity of wind power is around 340,000 MW [12]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in Spain was 23,074 MW [7]. As for the UK, a study predicted that the capacity of wind power is 19,000 MW over the onshore area and 25,000 MW over the offshore area [13]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in the UK was 14,543 MW [7].

The North American region was the third highest market for wind energy in 2016. The top three countries which utilized wind energy in North America are the United States (US), Canada and Mexico. The US is currently in the second place in global wind energy development. A joint study by the University of Delaware and the University of Stanford in the US predicted that the capacity of wind power is 850,000 MW over the east coast offshore area [14]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in the US was 82,184 MW [7]. In Canada, it was estimated that the capacity of wind power is 28,000 MW [15]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in Canada was 11,900 MW [7]. As for Mexico, a study estimated that the capacity of wind power is 71,000 MW over the coastal, northern and central area [16]. At the end of 2016, the total installed capacity of wind power in Mexico was 3,527 MW [7].

2.2 Regional Wind Energy Policies

This section will describe the policy development of the top three countries for each of the top three wind energy regional markets based on their renewable energy targets and supporting policy frameworks. Summary of the target for electricity production from renewable energy according to six countries from the top three wind energy regional markets is shown in Figure 2. In this summary, China, Canada and the UK have been excluded since their targets are set in different values. Instead of setting target for electricity production, both China and the UK has set the target for energy consumption from renewable energy. In contrast, Canada has not set any target at the state level as most initiatives were undertaken at the provincial level. The summary shows that a number of countries like Spain, India, Japan and the US have projected renewable energy to be their supplementary power producer between the year 2020 to 2030, while other countries like Germany and Mexico have the higher ambition to make renewable energy as their main power producer by the year 2035 and 2050 respectively.

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Figure 2 Target for electricity production from renewable energy by selected countries.

The overview of policy development for wind energy in Asia covers China, India and Japan. In China, the target for energy consumption from renewable energy is 15% by 2020 [8, 17]. In order to support the target, the Renewable Energy Law was introduced to urge power companies to have 5% of their power output from wind energy [17]. As for India, the target for electricity production from renewable energy is 40% by 2030 [7]. In order to realize the target, the National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) was introduced which required the Federal and State Governments to have Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) of 15% from total power [9]. In Japan, the target for electricity production from renewable energy is between 22 to 24% by 2030 [18]. Under the Special Measures Law Concerning the Use of New Energy by Electric Utilities, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and capital subsidies for renewable energy projects were introduced [10].

The average target for primary energy demand from renewable energy in Europe has been set at 20% by 2020 which will be achieved through the individual country target [11]. For this reason, the overview of policy development for wind energy in Europe will cover the three top countries which are Germany, Spain and the UK. In Germany, the targets for electricity production from renewable energy are 40 to 45% by 2025, 55 to 60% by 2035 and 80% by 2050 [19]. In order to achieve these targets, the Renewable Energy Law (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz – EEG) was introduced to provide utter support for energy transition from fossil fuels and nuclear to renewable energy [20]. This law provided the legal framework for the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) scheme [11]. As for Spain, the target for electricity production from renewable energy is 42.3% by 2020 [21]. In order to accomplish the target, the Plan to Promote Renewable Energies (PLAn de Fomento de las Energías Renovables – PLAFER) was introduced to specify the target of renewable energy installation at state and autonomous region levels [22]. Subsequently, the Renewable Energy Plan was introduced to further support the development of renewable energy [12]. In the UK, the target for energy consumption from renewable energy is 15% by 2020 [21]. The policy framework to meet the established target was defined through two mechanisms, namely the Renewables Obligation (RO) and the FIT scheme [23]. The RO scheme provided support for large renewable energy projects which have the output of more than 5 MW, while the FIT scheme provided support for small renewable energy projects which have the output of 5 MW and less.

For North America, the overview of policy development for wind energy comprises the US, Canada and Mexico. In the US, the target for electricity production from renewable energy is 20% by 2030 [24]. Wind energy has been singled out by the Department of Energy (DOE) to contribute as much as 20% from the total power production by 2030 [25]. In order to support the target, the RPS scheme was introduced by respective States to urge power companies towards sourcing renewable energy [25]. Meanwhile, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) scheme was introduced by the Federal Government to provide tax relief for wind energy projects [23]. There is no specific target for electricity production from renewable energy at the state level in Canada [23]. However, the respective provinces took major initiatives to introduce the RPS scheme [15]. In Mexico, the targets for electricity production from renewable energy are 35% by 2024, 37.7% by 2030 and 50% by 2050 [7]. In order to support these targets, three legal frameworks were introduced, namely the Energy Reform Law, General Law for Climate Change and Law for the Use of Renewable Energy and Finance of the Energy Transition [16, 25].

3 Discussion

This section will discuss on the findings from the information analysis that shows high economic concentration at onshore and offshore platforms by the top three regional wind energy markets in the world and lack of insight towards small islands. In the first part, the discussion will revolve around the wind energy development in small islands to emphasize on the social needs of crafting an independent and sustainable power supply. Then, several recommendations will be proposed in the second part to overcome some challenges and promote future development of wind energy in small islands.

3.1 Wind Energy Development in Small Islands

The motivations for the renewable energy development worldwide are to maintain energy security and mitigate climate change [17]. In 1970s, the concern for alternative power supply was the early motivation for developed countries to pursue renewable energy development during the oil crisis [1]. Due to the fluctuation of oil prices and supplies, wind energy has been considered as one of the substitutes to fossil fuels. However, there were many barriers during that time such as the unavailability of wind resource potential data, basic wind turbine technology and high development cost.

Nowadays, these barriers have been overcome with the development of wind resource atlas, aerodynamic blade design and mass production of wind turbine [27]. Wind resource atlas was developed by a country, region or even international body to assess the wind speed and its direction at spatial and temporal coverage. The US and Canada have conducted their own studies for wind resource atlas, while the European has developed the European region wind resource atlas. For developing countries, the World Bank has produced the wind resource atlas for Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam [28]. The advanced technology in aerodynamics has developed more efficient turbine blade to rotate with the wind direction [27]. The commercialization of wind turbine technology has enabled mass production and reduced development cost [1].

From the analyses of wind energy development and policies, it is discovered that a number of leading countries in Asia, Europe and North America have developed wind energy to be their supplementary power producer, while certain countries such as Germany and Mexico have a higher ambition to make wind energy as their main power producer. The current level of global wind turbine installations can be expanded because there is still a huge gap between the total installations and the wind power capacity. Since wind turbine development has taken off from the research stage to commercial stage [29], the leading wind energy countries had concentrated on the economic returns from their wind farm projects at the onshore and offshore areas. This situation had caused wind energy to be less developed in small islands. As a comparison, the total installed wind power capacity in the region of Asia, Europe and North America stands at 95%, while the total in the Caribbean islands (and Latin America) and Pacific islands stands at 3% and 1% respectively in 2016 [7].

In geographical condition, small islands are isolated from the mainland by the sea. Some islands are closer to the mainland while some are located farther away. Some islands are part of a mainland’s territory while some are recognized as autonomous states. However, large island such as Australia does not fit into the description of small islands with the exception of some islands within its territory. Based on the geographical and political characteristics, small islands comprise of four categories such as follows:

  • Small island developing state, e.g. Maldives;
  • Small island nearby mainland, e.g. Samsø in Denmark;
  • Small island far from mainland, e.g. Andaman and Nicobar in India; and
  • Small island nearby large island, e.g. Kangaroo Island in Australia.

Whenever this paper mentions about small islands, it takes into consideration all of the four categories of these islands. This is because the small islands are the most to suffer from the insufficient power supply [30, 31]. Wind energy can play a significant role as an independent (stand-alone) and sustainable power producer in small islands. The major proof of concept can be seen from the highly successful Samsø Island renewable energy project in Denmark which produced electricity entirely from renewable energy including wind energy [29, 30]. The island has an area of 114 km2 and a total population of more than 4,000 people. The electricity consumption in 1997 was estimated to be 29,000 MWh or equivalent to 105 TJ. To meet the electricity demand, eleven 1 MW wind turbines were installed on the island in 2000 and ten 2.3 MW wind turbines were installed in the nearby water in 2005. In 2005, the onshore wind turbines had produced 100 TJ, while the offshore wind turbines had produced 285 TJ which provided sufficient power for the whole island [33].

Besides the success story of Samsø, there is another potential role of wind energy for small islands. However, this potential is only applicable to small islands which are nearby to the mainland or large island. A research suggested that wind energy can be harnessed in small islands and the power generated is relayed to the mainland [34]. In this scenario, the small islands will take the role as a host or platform for wind power generation. This will overcome the challenges for offshore wind energy development such as high cost and complex installation due to platform requirement based on water depth and distance from shore. The public drawback due to noise and visual impact could also be avoided if the small island is not populated.

Although there is a distinguished evidence for wind energy to play a major role in the development of small islands, it will remain as potential if it is kept without proper planning and implementation. In order to make the potential becomes reality, the challenges for the development of wind energy in small islands need to be identified and overcome in a holistic manner. Only then, the development of wind energy in small islands will bear the fruit of success. Figure 3 shows a wind farm operation in a small island of Sri Lanka.

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Figure 3 A wind farm operation in a small island of Sri Lanka.

3.2 Recommendations for the Future Development of Small Islands

Over decades, the development of wind energy has encountered various transformations. It started with the challenge to convert its application from the windmill to wind turbine generator. Then, there came the challenge to make onshore wind turbine more powerful, less costly and interconnected with the main power grid. It was followed by the challenge to go offshore and build a platform for wind turbine based on seawater depth and distance from shore. Now, the challenge is to develop wind turbine for small islands either as a stand-alone system for self-sufficient power production or as a relay system for transmission of power to the mainland. Not only the pace of wind energy development in the Caribbean and Pacific islands needs to be increased, the leading wind energy countries in Asia, Europe and North America also need to review and cater the needs of their small islands. In order to achieve this, there are six recommendations for the future development of small islands:

  • the collection of wind data for small islands;
  • the design of robust wind turbine;
  • the provision of extra budget;
  • the configuration of hybrid energy system;
  • the establishment of dedicated policy support; and
  • the compensation for economic returns.

The primary challenge for wind energy development in small islands is the unavailability of wind data [1, 31, 32]. Most wind assessments are conducted in the mainland rather than in a small island due to the island’s remote location and far distance from the mainland which caused transportation and logistics concerns. This is because wind assessment required wind speed and wind direction data which need to be recorded between one to two-year interval and at the highest possible elevation in relation to the wind tower height by using measuring instruments such as anemometer and wind vane. Without measuring instruments, wind data could not be recorded in small islands. Therefore, it is recommended that the wind data in small islands are obtained by using satellite data and computer modelling.

Besides the wind data, small islands have extreme wind speed due to their geographical locations which are surrounded by a flat surface of open seawater [34]. The wind power in a remote island can reach as high as Class 7 or equivalent to the speed of more than 7 m/s at 10 m height. In comparison, even the current offshore wind turbine is having difficulty to harness wind power of up to Class 6 or equivalent to the speed of 6.4 m/s at 10 m height. The extreme wind speed might have an adverse impact on the wind turbine due to the limitation of the blade rotational speed. It is recommended that the design of wind turbine could be made robust by using shorter blades in a combination with direct driven transmission energy generation system.

The experience in many tropical regions also shows that there are several technical concerns that arise with regard to the safety of wind generators in small islands. Most tropical islands experience lightning, high wind gusts and tropical cyclones which may seriously damage windmill structure and/or the electrical system. Among these hazards, lightning plays a vital role [35] and wind turbine needs to be protected by means of a receptor [36, 37]. In addition to these natural hazards, ship collision with offshore windmills should also be given a prime concern [38]. Thus, an extra capital and operational cost should be added to the wind power generation budget, when such projects are planned for small islands, especially in tropics.

Another technical challenge for the development of small islands is the requirement to configure a wind energy hybrid system [1, 31]. Wind power has output variation due to the changing wind speeds in relation to gust, diurnal cycle, the inversion layer, weather pattern, seasonal cycle and annual deviation [1]. In order to ensure consistent power output, wind energy could be combined with different types of energy such as solar, biomass and even diesel to form a hybrid energy system. The configuration of such hybrid system could be done through system integration and storage of energy [39].

Furthermore, the absence of policy support impedes wind energy development in small islands [1, 31]. While the current policy frameworks were established to support renewable energy development in general, there was no specific attention given to the development of small islands. Without a solid policy, the planning and development of wind energy have taken place at the onshore and offshore area. An important aspect that could reverse this trend is the establishment of a dedicated policy for wind energy development in small islands.

The final challenge for wind energy development in small islands is the low level of economic returns [34]. If the wind power generated in an island is not feasible to be connected to the main power grid due to its far distance from the mainland, it can only be used to supply power for the island’s local consumption. This situation brings a low return on investment since the possible excess of power generated from an island could not be traded to cover the development cost of the wind turbine. Without good economic returns, the development of the turbine in an island is deemed unattractive to the renewable energy industry. However, this paradigm needs to be reviewed now by taking into account the possibility of the socio-economic impact that wind energy could bring especially for an island with growing inhabitants or tourism potential. With a dedicated policy support, the international communities and national governments could provide compensation for economic returns to the industrial player in the form of soft loans, tax incentives and profitable electricity tariff.

4 Conclusions

The order of growth in wind energy development worldwide shows the current role of wind energy as a supplementary power producer and the potential to become the main power producer to substitute fossil fuels. The strong progress is manifested by the rising installed capacity of wind turbines and solid policy framework to promote integration with the main power grids especially in Asia, Europe and North America. This achievement is now made possible with the availability of wind resource atlas, aerodynamic blade design and mass production of wind turbines. The commercial stage of wind energy technology brought tremendous wind energy development to the world.

However, the commercial stage also intensifies the economic returns requirement from every single investment in the wind farm projects. The dependency on economic returns makes the potential role of wind energy to be an independent and sustainable power producer for small islands as unattractive. Furthermore, there are several other technical and policy challenges for wind energy development in small islands either for self-sufficient power production or for transmission of power to the mainland. It is strongly recommended that these challenges are overcome by taking a few measures such as the collection of wind data for small islands, the design of robust wind turbine, the provision of extra budget, the configuration of the hybrid energy system, the establishment of dedicated policy support and the compensation for economic returns.

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Biographies

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A. R. Zahari graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Aerospace from Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2001. Later, he obtained his Master of Science in Space Management from International Space University, France in 2009. At present, he is a PhD candidate at Universiti Putra Malaysia. His research interests include space management, space policy and renewable energy.

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S. Z. M. Daud obtained a Bachelor of Engineering in Product Design Engineering in 2012 from Universiti Malaysia Perlis and later she obtained a Master of Science in Innovation and Engineering Design in 2014 from Universiti Putra Malaysia. She is currently pursuing her PhD study at Universiti Putra Malaysia. Her research interests are wind energy, vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) blade, wind turbine blade lightning protection and non-destructive testing.

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N. A. Zakaria received her Bachelor of Engineering in Product Design Engineering in 2012 from Universiti Malaysia Perlis and then she obtained a Master of Science in Innovation and Engineering Design in 2014 from Universiti Putra Malaysia. She is currently a PhD student at Universiti Putra Malaysia. Her research interests are wind energy, vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) shaft system and bio-composite materials.

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T. M. F. T. Ibrahim obtained a Bachelor of Engineering Technology in Mechanical (HVAC) in 2015 from Universiti Kuala Lumpur (MFI), Malaysia and later he obtained a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2017 from Universiti Putra Malaysia. At present, he is working as a Mechanical Engineer in a multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy firm at Perunding Hashim & Neh in Malaysia. His research interests are mechanical engineering, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, finite element method, computational fluid dynamic thermo-fluid, renewable energy and sustainability.

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Chandima Gomes is a professor of electrical engineering and researcher in high voltage engineering and lightning protection at Universiti Putra Malaysia. He is also an expert in power and energy, electromagnetic interference and compatibility and occupational safety management. Chandima was the founder of the Centre for Electromagnetics and Lightning Protection (CELP), Malaysia and the first Head of the Institute. He has held full-time/adjunct/visiting professorship and lectureship in physics, engineering and meteorology at universities based in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, USA, Australia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Zambia and Japan. He is a senior adviser to the National Lightning Safety Institution (NLSI), USA and was the Chief Adviser to African Centers for Lightning and Electromagnetics (ACLENet) based in Uganda. Being an engineering consultant and a business partner for several companies in Asia and Africa, Chandima has 20+ years of international experience in designing lightning protection systems and providing solutions for electromagnetic issues. He is well known at international frontiers as a trainer of trainers in several engineering subjects including, lightning, electrical safety and electromagnetism. He has conducted over 120 training programs in 12 countries so far. Chandima has published over 250 research papers and several books on his expertise. He obtained a First Class Degree in Physics from the University of Colombo in 1993. He has done research for his PhD (1999) and postdoctoral research on lightning protection and high voltage engineering at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Abstract

Keywords

1 Introduction

2 Information Analysis

2.1 Regional Wind Energy Development

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2.2 Regional Wind Energy Policies

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3 Discussion

3.1 Wind Energy Development in Small Islands

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3.2 Recommendations for the Future Development of Small Islands

4 Conclusions

References

Biographies