Dr. Gonsalves has envisaged geothermal as the ultimate energy source!
Not only would geothermal be the main energy source for St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), it has the capacity of export energy to neighboring Barbados through a hundred miles of undersea cables – good news!
This was part of the PM’s mission to the recent U.N. General Assembly in New York. Thereafter, the PM adamantly reiterated that this new national development will provide extensive economic sustainability in SVG — this he purported in the town hall meeting with the Diaspora in Brooklyn.
With the national out-cry about high power bills, PM Gonsalves is taking the right initiatives to reduce SVG’s dependence on conventional fossil fuel power generation. I am optimistic!
In retrospect, electricity generation in SVG is mostly powered by conventional process with a minimal percentage of the over-all electricity being generated by hydro technology. Because of this, the country‘s expenditure on imported fossil fuel is extremely high and the rise in global fuel prices often affects the fuel surcharges. Consequently, a number of consumers, including businesses, are experiencing disconnection of services.
What is troubling, though, the PM also informed the media in a press conference at home that undertaking geothermal initiative, Vincentian consumers will not immediately see a significant reduction in either the surcharges or the consumption. Since geothermal, coupled with hydro electricity, will suggestively reduced the importation of diesel used to generate energy, do not create huge changes in monetary sense, this important initiative in my view, needs further evaluation and development.
Geothermal technology will develop its source from thermal energy generated and stored beneath the Earth’s surface with an abundance of thermal located even deeper into extremely high temperatures of magna in the La Soufriere Volcano.
Scientifically, this technology utilizes layer of hot molten rock below the Earth’s crust. Here, heat is continually produced mostly from decay of natural radioactive materials in the form of potassium and uranium. Moreover scientific analysis revealed that the amount of heat within 10, 000 meters of earth’s surface contains 50,000 times more energy than the entire oil and gas resources globally.
Research also revealed that the most common technique for capturing energy from geothermal sources is tapping into natural occurring hydrothermal convection system, where cooler water seeps into the Earth’s crust, is heated up, then rises to the surface. The steam is then captured and used to drive electric generators. It is expected that the PM would indicate the method after assessment of the energy source.
I must warn that Caribbean leaders have in the past signed notorious deals with established international companies; deals that have left economies in shambles and gasping for breath: Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago possess so many natural resources, yet their economies are in coma waiting on economic experts to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, looking for pulses and hoping to restart their heart beats.
It is extremely dangerous to allow a company to control every aspect of this operation.
However, all is not lost!
I would recommend that the PM plan this new direction carefully while evaluation and negotiation are taking place and prevent any deals that would allow the repatriation of large amount of profits that often crippled businesses and economies.
Furthermore, the PM must prepare and develop Vincentians so they can take top spots in the administrative and technical support of the industry; provide training and development; R&D for the future of thermal energy sources and technology, coupled with its renewability and sustainability. This energy source is renewable for the same reason that any projected heat extraction is minute compared to Earth’s internal heat content of 1031 joules. Finally, SVG must invest in some of its own equipment and technical expertise to possess a meaningful amount on returns of operations.
At the same time, there are other impacts, which SVG has to contend with when dealing with geothermal energy.
Ideally, it is important to inform that geothermal energy source could have environmental effects. In this capacity, fluids drawn from depth of the Earth transport a combination of gases: hydrogen sulfide (H2S), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3) and carbon dioxide (CO2) – pollutants, which contribute to global warming, acid rain and harmful, poisonous fumes if released. According to stats, geothermal electric plants emit an average of 122 kilograms of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MW-h), which is a small fraction of the emission intensity of conventional fossil fuel plants. Therefore, geothermal plants are often equipped with emission-control systems to reduce the exhaust.
Likewise, there are economic impacts! Since, fuel is not required for power generation, SVG’s economy will be immune to fuel cost fluctuations. However, the cost of capital is significant with drilling representing more than half of the cost and exploring deep within the Earth’s crust pose significant risks. Most importantly for SVG the intervention of geothermal energy has potential for reducing carbon emission, eliminate high surcharges and increase revenues if SVG export to Barbados. It is also recommend that SVG take into consideration that Emera the 2.1 billion dollars Halifax based company has stake in Barbados’ utility company.
In this sense, I also agree with the PM that once the project is being initiated in SVG it is possible that companies and organizations, like the Clinton Global Initiative, and countries will be encouraged to invest in its development. Ideally, I believe that SVG’s action could influence Grenada to either invest or import energy from SVG instead of exploring geothermal in the Spice Isle.
Meanwhile, residents should be able to imports solar panels and privately install to reduce the impact on the environment and; hence, reduce their dependency on fossil fuel power generation; giving residents the option to connect to VINLEC grid.
After assessing the benefits of geothermal energy source I encourage all Vincentians to welcome this project and support this government initiative. Geothermal energy in SVG is comparable to bauxite in Jamaica, gold in Guyana and natural gas in TNT – support the cause.
Indeed, geothermal exploration in SVG could be a game changer!
D. Markie Spring
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].