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AMONG THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS, since August 2008, a proposal has been circulating to generate electricity using clean renewable energy. In May 2009, strategies were added to the earlier proposal to strengthen reliability and save years engaged in critical research.
In July 2016, a new proposal was disseminated based on another source of clean renewable energy. And now, the intention and future strategy is to combine the generating models and make it cost effective with the shortest investment repayment period.
It is fully understood that laws are in place to prohibit the commercial generation and sale to the national grid of electricity other than by, or with the written permission of, the parliamentary appointed entity. Therefore, financing any clean energy proposal of any size requires legal amendments and executive action.
The proposal was first based on wind energy, using turbines powered by atmospheric motion into electricity. The major concern, at that time, was location, requiring years of wind studies and bird migrations, to guarantee minimum wind speeds and evaluate effects on wildlife populations.
The proposal was further modified to locate these large turbines offshore, where the wind motion has been already measured, by sailing crafts, along particular routes, for many years. Hence eliminating lengthy and costly studies to forecast windspeeds.
The proposal was also then adjusted to use wind turbines that were redesigned to be driven, if windspeed felt below a set minimum, using steam, fired and connected to existing natural gas distribution lines. Hence, guaranteeing annual outputs power by wind and a small amount of natural gas.
A separate proposal was written to generate electricity powered by sea currents or ocean tides. Turbines, similar in size and output to wind-driven generators, can be adapted to work underwater, driven by these tidal motions.
Tidal turbines would be anchored to the sea bed and blended into the ocean’s ecology; not to disrupt tourist diving, ocean freight, or damage the fish stock, the coral and sea plant life, with scheduled routine maintenance, to minimise environmental impact and protect the reliability of electricity supply. Such an underwater farm of generators would also free up very valuable and limited land space on such island nations.
Allowing the existing power generation plants to live out their useful operating life, in many cases ten to 30 years, may not be the best decision for the environment or for the nation’s budget.
The current proposal combines floating wind turbines, with natural gas power capabilities, and tidal turbines built and positioned to produce their projected output, with low-scheduled maintenance and repair cost, realised by crews on floating platforms.
Financing such a transformation, from fossil fuel-fired generators to renewable energy-driven turbines, must be seen in terms of its savings. Consider the cost in foreign currency that would be used to purchase fuel on the international market as a non-producer, or as a producer consider the revenue that could be earned from the sale of fuel not used internally, both as a direct result of this transition.
This also seems to be a very practical way to meet and surpass a self-imposed target of generating over 20 per cent of electricity needs from renewable energy by the year 2020.
– TERRANCE A. JENNINGS