The tiny two island Caribbean nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis recently discovered several large geothermal reservoirs that will allow it to produce an estimated 50 megawatts (MW) of clean energy. With a need of only 10MW, Saint Kitts and Nevis is poised to become one of the most carbon-neutral nations in the world.
In addition to becoming virtually carbon-neutral, Saint Kitts and Nevis plans to export the excess geothermal energy it produces. This economic boost, combined with the construction of a new 2,500 acre beach resort on Saint Kitts has made the small 40,000 person nation hopeful for a greatly improved future and higher quality of life.
The effort to develop geothermal energy facilities has been swift and effective so far, given that the first reservoir on Nevis was "discovered" only in June of 2007. Using the word "discovery" is something of a misnomer, as the volcanic islands have long been known to have geothermal potential. In fact, the first hotel in the Caribbean was built in Nevis's capital city of Charlestown in 1778. It is still known as the historic "Bath Hotel" thanks to its popular hot springs.
Formal exploration for geothermal resources began in 2007 after the government granted the West Indies Power Company the right to drill and develop facilities (this explains the recent "discovery"). Construction on the first plant, known as the Spring Hill facility, began earlier this year. It will initially produce 10 MW of electrical power using two turbines. It is hoped that the plant will be operational by this time next year, and that the facility can be upgraded soon to expand its capacity by an estimated 40 MW. What's amazing is that this 50MW is only a portion of the geothermal potential thought to exist on Nevis. It's generally agreed by experts that above 200 MW could eventually be produced.
According to Caribbean Net News the CEO of West Indies Power, Kerry McDonald, recently said the following:
"Everyone associated with the Nevis Geothermal Project is excited that the power plant is now being developed. This 10MW geothermal power plant will be the first geothermal power plant in the Eastern Caribbean and will make Nevis the first 100% green island in the world. It will provide clean, low cost, reliable, renewable energy to the people of Nevis."
Under the concession granted to West Indies Power, the Saint Kitts and Nevis government will be paid royalties from the profits the company makes from selling the geothermal energy. It will also have a 10% stake in the company. Excess energy produced on Nevis will be transported to Saint Kitts and other Caribbean nations by using submarine cables under the ocean.
The project is gaining support throughout the region. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) recently provided a $38,000 grant to aid with technical assistance on the geothermal project, with the goal of helping to develop alternative energy resources that mitigate climate change effects. The World Bank has also shown interest in the project's importance to the region. While island nations like Saint Kitts and Nevis tend to produce fewer emissions than mainland nations, they are already experiencing disproportionate effects from weather phenomenon like hurricanes, that are thought to be increasing in strength because of global climate change.
Shrewdly, Saint Kitts and Nevis is seizing the moment by educating their citizens about geothermal energy's potential to transform their nation with jobs and clean energy. Several leaflets were recently distributed by the government with some basic information about how geothermal energy works and why it will be of value to everyone. A program that will send students to learn from Iceland's expertise as a geothermal powerhouse has also been developed. Iceland currently gets about 25% of its electricity from geothermal and is one of the leaders among the 24 countries that currently produce the alternative energy.
In addition to Saint Kitts and Nevis, many other nations are looking to expand their geothermal energy production because of its all-around value as an energy resource. In addition to producing little in the way of carbon emissions, geothermal is renewable, and can be produced 24 hours a day regardless of what the weather is like outside.
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