Renewable energy is energy that is obtained from natural resources and is able to be replenished. Some of the main sources of renewable energy are solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy, geothermal energy and biomass energy. There has been a refreshing interest in renewable energy projects in the Caribbean recently, whether it’s because of the increase in petroleum and oil prices, and diesel generation cost or the genuine urge to “go green”. Since CARICOM’s Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme founded in 1998 some Caribbean islands have effectively implemented small scale renewable energy installations and there are plans for further development. Most of the Caribbean islands after the United Nations 21st Conference of Parties in Paris have agreed to meet strict renewable energy generation targets by 2020. The small island developing states of the Caribbean really shined at this event pushing the other countries to agree towards a more ambitious target which will peak global warming temperatures at 1.5 degrees. This temperature is critical towards the very survival of small island developing states in the region and around the world which can be destroyed as a result of horrific climate changes that accompany global warming.
Nine of these states and the Bahamas were assessed for the availability of solar and wind resources and from the report, there is an abundance of solar resources. Solar energy from grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) panels is the most efficient way to use solar, however from the assessment and various reports, solar energy, even on the utility scale will not alter electricity prices. The assessment implied that a peak of only 174 kW of solar power was generated in the 927 MW of peak energy demand experienced in the target islands and there was possibility that 205 MW of solar electric energy could be useful. Many Caribbean states are signatories of the PetroCaribe Energy Cooperation Agreement and the electricity monopolies pay subsidised costs to Venezuela for oil. Therefore alternative energy on utility scale has to be grid-tied under licenses.
Caribbean islands have begun installing solar power plants, including Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Haiti, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Solar power is the most considered renewable source, but there has been action taken through other sources:
Aruba, Curacao, Jamaica, Bonaire, Guadeloupe, Nevis, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands all have wind farms. The wind farms on some of the smaller islands produce impressive percentages of total electrical power used e.g. Curacao and Guadeloupe, where they provide 20% and 30% of the islands’ total electrical power. Bonaire’s wind farms can generate up to 90% of the island’s electricity during the highest winds and 40-50% annual average. Other Caribbean islands such as St. Lucia have plans of implementing a 12 MW wind farm.
Hydroelectricity in the Caribbean
Hydro electricity as the name suggests, is energy generated by the movement of water. The island of Dominica has many waterfalls and rivers and as such has a vast potential for hydroelectric power generation. Currently the island has three small plants which produce about 23.3% of the total energy of the country. Dominica’s electrical utility company is expected to end their contract with PetroCaribe 10 years earlier than stipulated which should encourage more implementation of hydroelectric power. St. Vincent and the Grenadines also has developed hydroelectric power which produces 7.7% of the island’s total electricity. There are no evident actions to implement new hydroelectric plants on the island, mostly because VINLEC produces 16% of their electricity from hydro power and prices are lower than other islands. Not many Caribbean countries are prominently planning to install hydroelectric plants soon except Guyana, which is expected to begin a long awaited hydro power development.
Caribbean Geothermal Energy
The Caribbean’s geological structure and formation by volcanic activity means that most islands have strong geothermal energy potential. Geothermal energy is a very promising source of renewable power and on a bigger scale, a possible source of income. Guadeloupe is one of the islands which has successfully implemented a geothermal plant which provides about 6% of its electrical power. Many countries have been assessed for implementation, and a few, namely St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have begun exploration. These countries are expected to implement geothermal installations in a short time period. Islands such as Jamaica have high mega watt predictions from geothermal energy but have not announced future development.
Caribbean Biomass Potential
Biomass energy has been tested in the Caribbean on very small scales. However, it is not a highly considered form of energy such as solar and wind power because its prices were not competitive with the fossil fuel prices. However, with the steady increase in oil prices it may be the most inexpensive renewable energy source and sites in the various islands have been assessed for future large scale projects.
The Caribbean proves to have an abundance of renewable energy sources, but also quite a number of barriers. With more enforced action from various organisations such as Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme and financial aid from other organisations, there is a promise of a higher percentage of renewable energy in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Ten Island Challenge was developed to accelerate the Caribbean island economies from a high dependence on fossil fuels to renewable sources. The ten island challenge was founded by Sir Richards Branson’s Carbon War Room in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Institute. Some of the Caribbean Islands which have signed up for the challenge include Anguilla, Aruba, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos and as of recent Belize. The challenge brings together all the necessary parties for the efficient development of renewable energy projects in the Caribbean. Most of the islands need more than one type of renewable energy to transcend them to a sustainable clean energy future. The challenge helps these utilities and governments work out the perfect energy mix to enable this future by tackling all three heavy areas of the industry Capital, Policy and Technology.
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