Renewable Energy Options in The Caribbean; Part 2

Thu, Jun 17, 2010


Renewable Energy Options in The Caribbean; Part 2

Renewable energy options are being implemented in various parts of the world. Caribbean is not an exception, they are going towards a potential clean energy policy. Here are a few examples where they can progress.

1. Hydro Power

Hydropower has been used for years. Countries like Canada and Norway depends heavily on hydropower. However, hydropower is limited to certain regions and there need to be large-scale potential to make it efficient. In the world’s agenda of expanding renewable energy sources hydropower might not be considered as fashionable as wind and solar energy. In the Caribbean, there is a potential for hydropower but the cost is too exhaustive.

2. Geothermal Energy

Earth’s inner temperature is roughly 9000 degrees fahrenheit. The temperature slowly decreases as we move nearer to the surface. However, the variation of temperature below the surface does exceedingly fluctuate. Geothermal energy makes use of this particular heat. Rainwater sips into the crust of the earth and this water is converted into hot stem. In some countries like in Iceland the water comes back to the surface in hot springs and geysers.

With solar energy the key is to tap into the unlimited sunlight striking earth’s surface. However, for geothermal power the trick is to find suitable regions to drill. There are mainly three ways that hot water can be converted into electricity. The first method would is to use a steam generator to convert steam directly to electricity. Nonetheless, water at a temperature of 300 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit can be converted into electricity through a Flash Power Plant. In such a system hot water is practically flashed into steam. The third method would be where the water temperature is roughly below 220 degrees fahrenheit, and a Binary Power Plant is used. In such a plant hot water is used to heat fluids, which have a lower boiling point to produce steam. The water, once used is re-fed into the heating source under the ground.

The actual capacity of geothermal power plants is above 9,000 MW. The cost of generating energy from geothermal sources is similarly to wind energy. Recently, a study carried out by MIT reported that in the US alone the capacity of geothermal energy could be increased to 100,000 MW. However, such an expansion would require an investment of approximately one billion dollars.

Geothermal energy can definitely turn into a major source world’s energy supply. A positive advantage of this source of energy is that geothermal power plants can also adjust the supply of energy to requirements. It is thus considered more reliable and consistent. This is something both solar and wind energy cannot ascertain.

Moreover, in the Caribbean, at Lesser Eastern Antilles there is a great potential for geothermal energy. In Guadeloupe, there is already a 4 MW plant established since 1984. There has also been extensive research carried out in Dominica, St. Lucia and Montserrat. In the Caribbean region Dominica is an appropriate region for geothermal energy.

3. Tidal Energy

The ebbs and odds of tides have been present for as long as we know. However, it is only recently that scientists are harnessing energy from it. Tidal energy offers a consistent source of energy, but it is complex to harness electrical from waves. One option is to create “tidal Barrage” this is a method that is extremely difficult and might even cause alteration to currents. Thus, it can likely cause severe ramifications on our ecosystem. The potential of tidal barrages is high so it is essential to discover and research more on the technology.

The next possibility is to use offshore turbines, which uses the same basic technology as windmills. The only different is that they are established underwater and do not use the wind but the tides as a source of energy. This technology causes no harm to our ecosystem. Yet, the cost of these offshore turbines is high. In the Caribbean, the potential for tidal energy is immense.

4. Biomass Energy

Biomass is an ancient source of energy; wood used to cook food is an example of biomass. The significance of wood as a source of energy is declining. The dwindling of wood is not leading to the demise of biomass, there are other solutions disposable. Processed sugar cane known as bagasse is burnt to generate power. There are many waste substitutes available for the production of energy.

Another process is to convert plants and animal waste into bio-fuel like methanol, ethanol, natural gas or oil. The various sources of this energy can be corn stalks, seaweeds, manure, wood chips and other waste products. However, burning these bio-materials leads to emission of greenhouse gases.

5. Energy Conservation

The largest consumer of electricity is lighting. It represents around 12 to 15 percent of the total level of carbon dioxide emission. The solution brought forward is energy saving lamps (CFL’s). However, these lamps aren’t perfect wondrous lamps; they are made of poisonous phosphor and mercury. The LED lamp is claimed to have a longer lifetime. However, their lifetime is only tantamount to that of the CFL’s.

A Dutch hi-tech company, “Lemnis Lighting” created a new lamp known as the Pharox. This LED lamp is known to have an exceptional lifetime of 50,000 hours. A traditional (incandescent) light bulb has a lifetime of 1,000 hours and CFL’s lamp 6,000 hours. The Pharox lamp uses a very low voltage of only 3.4 watt in comparison to 6 watts for a CFL and 40 watt for the contemporary incandescent bulb.

Large-Scale Energy Conservation

In fact, if all American households would substitute 4 incandescent light bulbs with Pharox lamps the total energy saving per annum would be 22 billion kWh. The Pharox lamps would reduce carbon dioxide emission by 347,000 tons through their lifetime. According to John Rooymans, CTO of Lemins claims that the decrease in greenhouse gases would be equivalent to planting a total of 507,000 trees. The company is gradually increasing its optimum production capacity to meet current demands. The Pharox lamp has been available in the Caribbean since 2008.

Other technologies to save energy are refrigerators and washing machines. For instance, in the western world energy efficient refrigerators are sold. Refrigerators are classified according to energy efficient indexes. The most efficient refrigerators are represented by A++ with an index of 30. The cheapest refrigerators are less efficient and classified as (G) with an index of 125. This means that the cheaper refrigerator consumes more than 4 times the energy of the A grade refrigerator. In Europe category D, E, F and G are banned. It is vital to use energy efficient appliances as a principle to reduce energy consumption..


Green energy is present world-wide. There are short-term and long-term options available in relation to return on investment. Moreover, in the Caribbean, most of the alternative sources of energy are applicable. The most promising solution for the short-term is solar and wind energy. They are the most affordable solutions; wind energy first and Solar energy second. Utility companies are likely going to expand the size of wind energy farms via the large-scale windmills.

Source: Tech With Us

Read Part 1: Renewable Energy Options in The Caribbean

RPN's contributed to this report.

Professional freelancer in Green Technology and Scientific Development. Educational background in the field of Human Resources Management.

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