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Smart in Capri

To my mind, the size of Capri makes it ripe for a whole smart take-over

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Marina Grande, Capri
Marina Grande, Capri

Whenever I take a holiday en famille, I can pretty much turn off, tune out and surrender my husk-like mind and body to endless days where time matters not.

 

But this time, it was definitely different. Could it be that I just don’t take enough breaks (possibly) or is it a case that once you know something, you can’t unknow it?

 

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It’s just that this year, whilst on the Italian island of Capri, in the Gulf of Naples near Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, many of my sunbed fantasies revolved around possible technologies and logistics of making this island, the size of New York’s central park, smarter and more resilient.

 

Capri has a population of about 13,000 yet in the summer months, around 20,000 descend on its shores every day from ferries, hydrofoils, yachts, motor boats and cruise ships. That’s an immense mass of linen and straw hats for anyone to deal with.

 

Granted my exploration of this azure-coloured jewel was hardly forensic, but to my sun-shaded eyes, there was no obvious evidence of solar energy. Capri, like many of the small Italian islands is not connected to the continental power grid, and electricity production takes place through a diesel generation plant largely oversized compared to winter demand, because it has to be ready to cover summer peak loads. The size of the plant corresponds to the high number of tourists, and the more visitors, the larger the plant. Energy generation is inefficient and because of inconstant use, plant maintenance, and supply from the mainland with tankers, operating costs are higher than on the mainland.

 

Waiting for a bus, it was common to be overcome with the smell of the diesel and petrol fumes emanating from buses and the numerous iconic Ape Piaggios buzzing along the narrow, roads with their Bond-style hairpin bends.

 

Capri has a population of about 13,000, yet in the summer months, around 20,000 tourists descend on its shores every day from ferries, hydrofoils, yachts, motorboats and cruise ships. That’s an immense mass of linen and straw hats for anyone to deal with. My Lord, the restaurants, street lights and pizza ovens could be powered by kinetic energy alone as there’s an endless supply of footfall in exactly all the right places.

 

Always wanting to provide solutions my daydreams comprise speed dialling Elon Musk, who I ask to fly down to Europe and offer Naples District Council an offer it can’t refuse – similar to the one he made earlier this year when he promised that he could install enough battery capacity in South Australia’s power grid to fix the state’s energy capacity problems within 100 days, and if he failed, he would do the whole thing for free!

 

And just as one of our highlighted news stories reports, please could there be integrated ticketless mobility? Joining everything up from ferries to buses to the Funicular Railway, and why not throw in the cable car too?

However, I must stipulate that this island has to remain an autonomous vehicle-free zone as transport accounts for many jobs.

 

Daydreams aside, I decided to explore the reality of Capri as a smart island. Part of the smart island initiative (www.smartisland.eu/en/), it is dedicated to reducing emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, and there is a project to connect it to the mainland electricity grid via subterranean cables.

 

There are various pilots happening on the island particularly around the Marina Grande port that include LED lights with low consumption, a small number of electric cars that provide a free shuttle service within the Marina removing the presence of cars and scooters in the area, a free bike-sharing service.

 

In the waters of the port there is also a waste collection boat that collects all kinds of waste from the sea and from the boats for free, and on request, it deals with the withdrawal of large quantities of waste from large yachts. It’s good to read that there are several projects focused on using renewable energy sources.

 

To my mind, the size of Capri makes it ripe for a whole smart take-over. A technological incubator to ensure that this captivating island can retain its natural beauty amidst the demands of the adoring multitudes that clamour to its shores.

 

 

Melony Rocque

Editor

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