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Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
Living with the generator

It’s lunchtime of a baking hot day. I am sitting on the front porch of the research house in hopes of catching the ridiculously occasional movement of air which does not even qualify as a breeze. The laptop I am typing on has 60 minutes of battery left and I am hoping that I can type this quick enough so that I could finish it before the inevitable shutdown of the computer. If I don’t I will have to wait until 6pm when the generator gets turned on. The generator. The noisy, fuel-consuming thing that drives the electronics on the Cousin Island Special Reserve.

In order to limit fuel consumption costs and emissions the generator does not run during the day, excepting for an hour around lunchtime. It is then put on between 6pm and 10pm and occasionally until 1:00am, which requires, whichever poor person is on duty, to wake up and switch it off. This gives power to run the fridge, so that the freezer is actually the fridge and so that the actual fridge part ends up being a cool-ish cupboard. The fridge ‘cupboard’ is however not cool enough to keep the insects at bay and in the research house we almost always have a highway of ants going in and out of the fridge as they please. The trouble is that, living on Cousin, the availability of fresh food is severely limited, and when you get this food it needs to be consumed very quickly because nothing keeps in a fridge that runs for a few hours a day. This means that our beginning of the week diets consist mainly of non-protein, half ant-demolished fresh foods and later in the week, we resort to the good ol canned foods and pasta diet. To say that I am pretty tired of baked beans and canned tuna, is an understatement.

Because power is such a limited resource, at lunchtime it is impossible to be able to charge everything in the house that needs charging. Bearing in mind, that at the research house we are currently 7 people! So that’s 7 peoples’ cameras, phones and laptops to be charged. This laptop is now at 30 minutes remaining, so I better hurry this up! Along with that, the poor researcher at the house needs to spend her lunchtime and a large part of the evening, staring into her steriscope whilst she has access to the electricity needed to power the steriscopes’ light.

So here I am, complaining about the inconveniences of the generator for the humans on the island, but what about its more important inhabitants. I doubt that the White-tailed Tropic birds, the White Fairy Terns, the Seychelles Magpie Robins, the Seychelles Warblers and the Giant Land Tortoises are too happy about the deafening chugging of the generator.

It is for these reasons that the team on Cousin have started the drive to raise funds to install a solar PV system on Cousin. The benefits of installing solar panels to power the island are numerous. The removal of the generator will save around 8,000kg’s of CO² emissions annually as well as around £600 in fuel costs. These savings will then be available to reinvest in the conservation management of the island. Solar power will allow for enough power to have electricity for longer parts of the day, reducing the troubles of limiting work time with laptops that have run out of battery. Speaking of which… 10 minutes remaining! Then of course, the noise reduction resulting from a switch to solar, will be so welcome on this beautiful serene island, to humans and animals alike! I now have 5 minutes remaining and therefore have to choose my last words quickly and wisely… Help us to silently and efficiently power this incredible place to make the lives of the conservation team that does such valuable work just a little bit easier!

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Nicola Kuhn