Saturday, 19 January 2013

Geothermal - getting all steamy in paradise

It sounds so simple.

Take one volcanic island, drill some holes, lay some pipes and bingo! Hot water by the bathful, and steam enough to  power your island to clean green energy independence - with plenty left over to consider supplying your neighbour islands. That was certainly the plan on Nevis Island, the tiny Caribbean island paired with St.Kitts, back in 2007.

Nevis geothermal well letting off steam
According to the script, a 10 MW proof-of-concept geothermal plant, aiming to tap the heat simmering under Nevis Island's distinctive volcano, would be enough to cover all of the 12,000 citizens baseload electricity needs. And with up to 500 MW of geothermal potential remaining to be tapped, that extra energy could then be exported,via subsea cable, to neighbouring St Kitts, across the Caribbean Sea to Antigua - or even to Puerto Rico, 150 miles to the north-west, and beyond.

Murky start to project

The problem is that, five years later, there is little to show for the $10 million-costed project, apart from 3 holes in the ground. That and a grinding lawsuit in the court. The contract to develop Nevis Island's geothermal resource was signed with St. Kitts-based West Indies Power (WIP). But it was an opaque deal, by many accounts, lacking in any semblance of open process or competitive bidding.