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Geothermal energy project brings exciting new possibilities

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Fri May 24, 2013

Earlier this week an important conference took place, which, if everything goes according to plan, could have a significant positive impact on the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).{{more}}

Major stakeholders in a geothermal energy development project for SVG met on Tuesday to assess the current status of the project, and to plan how best this county could utilize its geothermal energy potential.

Officials say at peak time, the present demand for electric power in SVG is 21 MW. Of this, our hydroelectric power plants provide up to 4.5 MW during the rainy season. The rest of the power needed to run our businesses, homes and industries comes from our diesel plants, primarily the new diesel station at Lowmans Bay. With the coming on stream of the international airport and new industrial and hotel developments, our demand for power will increase.

The geothermal project being undertaken by the government, in partnership with Reykjavik Geothermal and Emera Inc., with technical support from the Clinton Foundation, is expected to initially contribute 10 MW of power to our national supply. Estimates vary, but a 1999 report put our geothermal energy potential at 112 MW. Project officials say that barring unforeseen circumstances, electricity generated from the heat within the Soufriere hills could be in use within two and a half years (see story on page 30).

Geothermal energy is a relatively cheap, clean, dependable source of renewable energy, which has the potential to positively and significantly impact development in our small country. Besides the impact on our economy, a project such as this should provide exciting employment and research opportunities for our young scientists and engineers.

The project is now in the second phase, during which a detailed assessment would be made of our geothermal resource. The project is by no means a simple one, as our rugged terrain presents significant challenges in terms of road access and finding relatively flat land, large enough for plant construction, in the area where the geothermal potential is greatest. Of course, there are also the potential geo-hazards such as seismic and volcanic events, slope instability and flash flooding, which must be mitigated against.

SEARCHLIGHT supports this project, but urges that close attention be paid to the environmental impact study, which should be one of the critical outcomes of this phase. While this project has the potential to transform our lives, we should do all within our power to keep its environmental footprint at a minimum.

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