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Ai Stratis to Become the First Green Island in Greece

Ai Stratis or Agios Efstratios island, Greece
Ai Stratis will become the first Greek island to run exclusively on renewable energy sources. Credit: Greek Pictures / Twitter

The small Greek island of Ai Stratis (Agios Efstratios) with just over two hundred inhabitants is expected to become the first island in Greece to be powered exclusively by electric and thermal energy from renewables.

The small hybrid project in progress on Ai Stratis, a remote Greek island of the northern Aegean, will act as a guide for larger projects.

The plan calls for the shutdown of the small Public Power Corporation (PPC), a power plant on the island, which runs on expensive diesel. That way, the island will be able to make a transition to full energy autonomy.

The Environment and Energy Ministry granted a unified license to the municipality of Ai Stratis for the installation of a hybrid power plant and the production of electricity using wind and solar as well as for the storage of electricity with the use of accumulators. Moreover, the license approves the installation of a station for the production of thermal energy.

The project is carried out by Terna Energy, which won the international tender, a project that started in 2011 when the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES) and Agios Efstratios Municipality had signed an agreement for rendering the island green.

Ai Stratis inhabitants, who have already eliminated all plastic packaging from the island, are now also leading energy transition.

Ai Stratis, a place of important contemporary political history

Ai Stratis
Ai Stratis is a small Greek island with an important political history. Credit: GSlaveris / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0

Agios Efstratios, or Saint Eustratius (Greek: Άγιος Ευστράτιος), which is also known as Ai Stratis, is a small Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea about thirty kilometers southwest of the island of Lemnos and eighty kilometers northwest of Lesbos.

In Ancient Greece, the island was known as Halonnesus. Under this name, the island was a bone of contention between ancient Athens and Macedon, as was noted in On the Halonnesus, attributed to Demosthenes.

The island was named after Saint Eustratius, who lived on the island in the 9th century as an exile, because he was opposed to the iconoclastic policies of the Byzantine emperor, Leo the Armenian.

Furthermore, the island used to house political prisoners in internal exile since the 1930s. The first communists were exiled to the island with the Idionymon law of Venizelos. Other political prisoners were later transferred to the island during the Metaxas Regime and again during the 1943 to 1949 Greek civil war. After Makronisos, it became the largest prison island in the Aegean.

During the Greek military junta of 1967 to 1974, the island was again used as a prison for political exiles. Exiles here included Ilias Iliou, Stefanos Sarafis, Dimitris Glinos, Kostas Varnalis, Tasos Leivaditis, Yiannis Ritsos, Menelaos Lountemis, Manos Katrakis, and Mikis Theodorakis.

On February 19, 1968, a 7.1 Richter earthquake demolished most of the island’s houses. Thankfully, some of the stone houses of the island were saved from complete destruction. These were restored with reverence by the locals of Agios Efstratios. Οne of them, the Marasleios School of 1909, presently houses the Museum of Democracy.

Nonetheless, the island retains an attractive small town also called Agios Efstratios. It preserves an unspoiled Greek tradition with breathtaking beaches, ideal for relaxation and meditation.

Ai Stratis has attracted many international researchers

The island is known internationally for the peace and quiet it offers to its visitors. A French director, Jean-Marie Tomasi, recorded the daily lives and stories of the island’s inhabitants a few years ago because—as she herself said—they remind her of her own island, Corsica, with its rebellious, independent spirit.

Agios Efstratios is included in the European Union’s Natura 2000 network of nature protected areas. It attracts many international researchers for its unique environment and sea creatures.

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