St Vincent exploring geothermal energy solutions
St Vincent and the Grenadines has launched its geothermal energy initiative that Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves believes will be a “potentially game changing initiative”.
Prime Minister Gonsalves, speaking at the launch of the testing phase of the project said geothermal energy “is something which is getting more and more interest across the region.
“So, I want to say that we are in the next phase of the operations … The story is that we are making progress and it is a matter of great interest not only to St Vincent and the Grenadines, but the Caribbean, to the neighbouring countries such as St Lucia and Barbados,” Gonsalves said at the launch of the project on Friday.
Chief operating officer of the Iceland-based Reykjavik Geothermal, Gunnar Orn Gunnarsson, said that his company is confident about possibilities of geothermal energy here, but that scientific data was needed to analyse the potential.
“I have to say that after we have been studying the possibilities now for some months, gathering all of the information that is available for geothermal resources, we have found that there is an opportunity and therefore we have decided to go to the next stage of this journey that we are on. This is doing some surface exploration work,” he said.
Gunnarsson said that scientists from Iceland would visit St Vincent and the Grenadines next week to do surface exploration work and that they would remain here until mid-December and would pay a visit to the Soufriere mountains
“This is like hiking; just scientists walking around with some measuring devices and measuring resistivity of the earth, of the volcano and by doing that, they will get an indication if there is a possible resource in the area.
“We are confident that there is, but first we have to do measurements to be able to confirm that,” he said, adding that it would take some months for the data to be analysed.
However, the company hopes that in the first quarter of next year there would be enough information to inform a decision about whether they should proceed to the next step – proving – the resource by drilling into the volcano, Gunnarsson said.
He also sought to allay the fears of persons who might think that geothermal exploration would cause seismic activity at the La Soufriere volcano, which last erupted in 1979.
“I know that people who maybe don’t understand this technology, think this could interfere with the environment or the volcano, but I can assure you that in Iceland we have great experience, over decades, of exploiting geothermal energy,” Gunnarsson said.
He said that Icelanders sometime say that their country would not be what it is today if they were not utilizing geothermal energy.
He noted that geothermal energy was heating up many houses in Iceland and produces one-third of the country’s electricity, with some 650 to700 megawatts already online.
“And we have been drilling in some of the volcanoes …. We have about six power plants up and running, we are planning to expand that industry in the coming years.”
In addition to Reykjavik Geothermal, the Clinton Climate Initiative is also partnering in the project.