Many ideas are now being generated to reduce the dependence of the Virgin Islands on fossil fuels. For instance, work has begun on how to utilize wind power. Basil Ottley, field representative for the Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs, said at a recent meeting that anemometers, which measure wind speed, will be installed at numerous locations to develop data on the territory’s wind capabilities. He expects the anemometers to be in place by the end of the year.
The goal of the Energy Development in Island Nations pilot project (EDIN) is to reduce the territory’s dependence on fossil fuel 60 percent by 2025, Ottley said. An important task is finding spots on the island that are suitable for wind turbines or solar arrays — suitable in the topography, but also not so close to population centers.
The international partnership for Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN) helps islands across the globe adopt energy efficiency measures and deploy renewable energy technologies.
Half of the territory’s 60-percent reduction in fossil fuel usage will come from increased energy efficiency. Ottley said this includes things like changing lights and having WAPA work more efficiently. He said that WAPA’s efforts will account for 16% of that goal. The rest will come through the development of renewable energies. There are challenges related to the territory’s electrical grid, which can’t handle power fluctuations that come with renewable energy. Ottley explained that problem must be solved.
EDIN is also pushing ahead on the solar front. To combat the lack of space to house a utility-grade solar system, Ottley said it’s looking at “packaging” together an array of government and private commercial building roofs to house a large-scale solar system. The packaged roofs will generate 10 megawatts of power on St. Thomas and an equal amount on St. Croix. He said that at peak operation, St. Croix consumes 55 megawatts and St. Thomas 88 megawatts, so the solar will account for a significant amount of the power.
In 2008, the price of electricity in the U.S. Virgin Islands was greater than 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, more than five times the U.S. average. With wind power plunging to as low as 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, and solar energy dropping to as low as 18 cents/kWh, there’s plenty of space for renewable to help the bottom line.
Other strategies include goethermal and landfill gas.
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