Ocean thermal energy considered in Caribbean

Barbados Energy Minister Darcy BoyceWhile the Caribbean may not be rich in traditional petroleum energy resources, the evolution of renewable energy has revealed that the region possesses an abundance of another valuable source – water.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Energy, Senator Darcy Boyce, highlighted this point, as he delivered remarks at the Developing Renewable Energy in the Marine Environment: UK-Caribbean Knowledge Sharing seminar, held today at the Courtyard Marriott in Hastings, under the patronage of the British High Commission, Bridgetown.

Minister Boyce told the gathering of donor representatives, policy and energy specialists that the potential of the ocean for electricity generation had been recognized regionally.

He noted that the CARICOM Energy Policy had also urged Member States to keep abreast of developments in renewable energy resources such as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), ocean waves, tides and currents.

“Our government has recognized that at present, marine energy technologies are new, but advancing towards commercialization. We are cognizant of the fact that the cost of marine energy technologies is high, but that the research to date shows that there is scope for the lowering of these costs as compared to the costs of other forms of electricity generation. The scope for such is particularly favorable in the Caribbean where the cost of electricity generation is high,” he said.

The Energy Minister disclosed that a study would be undertaken, in partnership with the European Union, to establish “the marine potential within the limit of our territorial waters, by undertaking an assessment of the technical and commercial viability and sustainability of these marine resources”.

“We are particularly interested in OTEC systems which, not only produce base load electricity, but also cold water which may be used for air-conditioning, which creates a heavy demand for expensive electricity,” he noted, while adding that this would be of particular interest for the tourism-driven national economy, as a heavy user of air-conditioning.

With OTEC also of interest because of the potentially beneficial by-products produced by electricity, the Minister surmised that it was critical that the technology be explored.

He disclosed that Barbados was already a recipient of a desk top study on this technology through the SIDS-DOCK (Sustainable Energy Initiative) mechanism, using Japanese experts.

The study, he added, suggests that a 10MW OTEC plant is technically viable but, given the heavy investment required, its commercial viability would have to be investigated carefully. “We need to have a better understanding of these opportunities”, he stated.

Senator Boyce observed that translating this knowledge into action would be necessary for progress to be realised and commended the British Government for facilitating the seminar, which brought together regional governments and agencies which could offer guidance on such initiatives.

He also urged the international community to continue its support for renewable energy advancements, through financial and technical assistance.

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