Friday, February 3, 2012

European Investment Bank to Support Caribbean Islands’ Geothermal Energy Project

European Investment Bank to Support Caribbean Islands’ Geothermal Energy Project:

Solar and wind energy would probably come to mind first when thinking about renewable energy potential among Caribbean nations, but the region is also home to considerable geothermal energy resources. Various Caribbean nations have been discussing how best to reduce their dependence on polluting, imported fossil fuels by identifying and developing their geothermal energy resources. Now, the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) ready to support them.

The EIB announced that it will provide a 1.1-million-euro (~US$1.38-million) grant to “enhance detailed planning and study the feasibility of exporting electricity generated by geothermal energy from Dominica to neighboring islands Martinique and Guadeloupe.” More specifically, the grant facility will evaluate the possibility of building a northern submarine interconnection from Dominica to Guadeloupe and a second south to Martinique. Subsequent studies are to define the characteristics of required sub-sea cables and assess the project’s environmental impact.

“Ensuring the most effective use of geothermal energy as a sustainable source of electricity generation offers immense potential for transforming energy use and economic growth in the Caribbean,” Plutarchos Sakellaris, EIB vice president, stated.

“The European Investment Bank is pleased to contribute to overcoming specific technical and engineering challenges essential to lowering the energy costs in Dominica and to significantly increase electricity generation from renewable energy sources in the East Caribbean.”

Renewable Energy’s Considerable Advantages in the Caribbean

The EIB’s support gives the Dominica geothermal project a big boost, and not only in dollars-and-cents terms. “Having the EIB on board in our geothermal development initiative is very instrumental in giving our program the exposure necessary to attract the best in the geothermal business – contractors, consultants, experts and, of course, investors,” the Hon Rayburn Blackmoore, Dominica’s minister for Public Works, Energy and Ports, said.

Developing renewable energy resources is a key aspect for the Caribbean nations as they look to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, especially in terms of poverty alleviation and eradication, added Valeriano Diaz, who heads the European Union delegation to Barbados to the Eastern Caribbean.

Dominica’s looking to construct geothermal power plants capable of producing as much as 140 megawatts (MW) of clean, baseload electrical power—a 20-MW plant for local use and a 120-MW one for export. Dominica’s government, with assistance from the EU and the Agence Francaise de Developpement, is drilling three test wells on the island to determine geothermal energy potential in the island’s Roseau Valley. Planning for a 5-MW test plant are also under way.

Developing renewable energy resources would yield significant benefits to Caribbean nations across a range of key issues—health and environmental quality; natural resource preservation and conservation; and economic, employment, and social development. Highly dependent on polluting fossil fuels to meet their energy needs, developing renewable energy systems would immediately reduce the high foreign-exchange cost of these Caribbean nations’ fossil fuel import bills.

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