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Commentary: Contribution of geothermal energy to climate change mitigation: A Caribbean perspective


Considering the region’s geography, it should be a model for geothermal energy generation!


When one thinks about renewable energy potential for the Caribbean, perhaps the first thing that comes to one’s mind is solar and wind energy sources. Interestingly, the Caribbean is home to significant volume of geothermal energy resources – embedded within the volcanic island arch stretching from the tri-island state of Grenada in the south to the Virgin Islands in the north — and has enormous potential to produce clean geothermal energy.

Unlike Trinidad and Tobago (TNT), most Caribbean countries are net energy importers. However, Guadeloupe has the only operational power plants; the 4.5 megawatts of electricity (MWe) dual flash plant and the 11.7 MWe flash plant at Bouillante.


According to TIME – Science and Space, Nevis, if estimates are correct, has huge volumes of geothermal reservoir – a phenomenon that can cement and secure a place for the twin island paradise on the map. Nevis, a volcanic island and home to active hot springs, has the potential to produce enough energy; positioning itself in an ideal spot to become the world’s first nation near self-sufficiency from renewable energy sources.


Henceforth, regional reports indicate that Dominica first exploration wells, with support and finance from European nations, have been a proven success. Similarly, St Lucia’s government has signed an agreement with US-based Qualibou Energy for the installation of a geothermal plant – henceforth, if this plan is successful it could generate 12 MWe and an additional 108 MW of capacity will be in operation by 2015. What is intriguing about this project, if successful, St Lucia will become an energy exporter to Martinique through a 30 miles sea cable, which can potentially export approximately 80 MWe by 2015.


Meanwhile, these successes have influenced and prompted Montserrat to release results from a tender held to commence initial exploration on the volcanic stricken island. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the diagram that follows depicts the true state and capacity of geothermal potential within the region.



In the meantime, Montserrat is not the only nation influenced by the potential successes of these projects, but in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) an announcement made by Prime Minister (PM) Gonsalves in his recent national budget speech indicated that under his government SVG will pursue geothermal energy technology. As a matter of fact, at a meeting between the PM and I, he reiterated that SVG will utilize the geothermal reservoir located deep within the La Soufriere volcano and harnessing of geothermal energy will be incorporated with reputable companies, which include the Clinton Global Initiative to provide technical support relative to geothermal power.


Nonetheless, the PM reiterated that to save cost the operation would most likely be installed from the North Leeward end and foreign investors will have to play a role in this development; and maintaining that geothermal fluid will be flashed into steam in separators close to the wellheads, and separating brine and steam where the brine is transferred to an injection well then back to the geothermal reservoirs. The steam, however, will enter the scrubber through an insulated line where the process displaces condensation and impurities. If successful, SVG could potentially, in the near future, be exporting geothermal energy to Barbados through a 100 miles sea cable.


In addition to this and after listening to the PM, I gathered that the process of generating geothermal energy in SVG will resemble the one illustrated in the diagram below:


Geothermal Steam Power Process



However, this is not the only grand national project the PM is planning to undertake relative to clean alternative energy, but power generated from wind turbines. Apparently, a plan is in place since the PM mentioned that the ideal spot on a small closed knit populated island like SVG will be Ribishi – voicing that the turbines be to installed send off enormous noises and would be installed far away from private homes.


As the PM reiterated, he also emphasized that SVG has many benefits deriving from such project: small footprint as this would reduce carbon emission into the atmosphere; and the possibility of this project being affected by natural disasters like hurricanes is less likely. More so, he said that the main driver behind such initiative are the rising prices for conventional energy.


With this said, there are some barriers to be considered: SVG has an active volcano, which could disrupt operation during an eruption; little demand, as SVG has an approximate 110, 000 people; and the high cost in undertaking this project. Similarly, there is a sole drawback, which must be taken into consideration – the risks and cost of capital financing relative to development.


However, I am optimistic! Why? From the statements made by the PM, I understand that Emera Inc., a $2.1 billion Nova Scotia based energy company, acquired from American private equity fund manager — the Caribbean Basin Power Fund (CBPF) – a 19 percent interest in St Lucia Electricity Service Limited (Lucelec) in 2007. Coupled with this, in 2010, this company had announced its intent to acquire a 38 percent stake in Light and Power Holdings in Barbados – hence, I am of the opinion that Emera Inc. could play a significant role, if not the leading role in harnessing geothermal energy in SVG.


Here it is worthy to note that Emera is successful in undertaking challenges of sustainable development and environmentally responsible growth. More so, this company has made safety its priority and working tirelessly to add more energy from greener and cleaner sources, while simultaneously installing new technology to reduce the astronomical volume of carbon emission into the atmosphere.


With these economic and environmental incentives, SVG is steamed up and ready to go greener and cleaner!



Category/ies:Articles, Regional Articles, St Vincent and the Grenadines Articles.
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