Geothermal Power Coming to Soufriere
West Indies Power (WIP) held a meeting in Soufriere Friday evening to discuss the Geothermal Project that is ongoing in the area.
The CEO of WIP, Mr. Kerry McDonald, made a presentation about geothermal energy to a group of concerned Soufreire residents. Accompanying him were Dr. John Sydow, geologist Makeda Warner, and the local WIP Team (Val Cuffy, Paul Toulon and Allan Toussaint).
There was much discussion about the pros and cons of geothermal power. Some of the benefits include:
- Lower cost of electricity (although it will ultimately be sold and distributed through DOMLEC)
- Cleaner energy production
- Creating jobs in the Soufriere community
- Providing another local tourist attraction (apparently Geothermal Plant Tours are very popular!)
Importantly, this upcoming phase of the project will provide direct employment for nearly 20 people, with spin-off jobs raising the total to 60.
The cons of geothermal power generation were also discussed.
We were very pleased to learn that this system will NOT require any additional water. The water necessary for production already exists in the underground reserves, and part of the process involves the use of injection wells to put back the unused hot water that is extracted. (The system that uses vast amounts of local water is known as EGS and is also much more volatile and dangerous. ) The proposed Soufriere system is NOT EGS.
Dealing with potentially dangerous H2S gas was another issue under discussion. This gas can be lethal in large amounts, but it is heavier than air, is easily recgonisable by its strong odour, and can be monitored with simple alert devices. There are many safety precautions in and around the plant, and there are specific action plans for dealing with any incident.
The potential problem of noise from the plant was next on the list. Once in full operation, the plant produces no more noise than that of a gas lawn-mower from 30 feet away. We were assured we would not hear the plant in the village, as it will be located about a mile up the valley and the noise would be further buffered by distance and vegetation.
The test phase is expected to run until 2012. If it shows there is good potential and it is a worthwhile investment, the plant construction is estimated to be completed in 2014. (This was a typical timeline for the a project of this nature.) It was noted that financing for the project has been sourced through the Export Import Bank of the US.
WIP is currently working on a geothermal plant in Nevis. You can visit their website for more information:
The ultimate result of a geothermal power plant would mean cheaper electricity, produced in a greener, eco-friendly and sustainable manner. However, WIP does not handle distribution of the electricity, that will be the responsibility of DOMLEC.
Exactly how this cheaper, cleaner energy production will impact the price per kilowatt to the average Dominican citizen is yet to be determined. But at least many concerns about the possible negative impacts of a geothermal power plant were laid to rest.