To Dump Diesel, Island Eyes Geothermal

From mere burgs to populous states to independent nations, islands have a particular motivation for going green: they can avoid the use of expensive and dirty diesel for power generation. Solar with some wind have typically been the technologies of choice, but Nevis, in what is becoming something of a Caribbean trend, is turning to geothermal.

“The use of geothermal energy will not only make Nevis a greener place in the future, but also makes it less vulnerable to volatile oil prices, as the cost of geothermal energy is stabilized under a long-term contract,” Alexis Jeffers, senior minister in the Ministry of Utilities, said in a statement announcing the choice of Nevis Renewable Energy International as the geothermal contractor.

nevis geothermal

The volcanic Nevis Peak, a sign of the island’s geothermal potential (image via Wikimedia Commons)

According to an International Press Service piece, Nevis, with a population of 9,000, has been spending $12 million a year to bring in 4.2 million gallons of diesel fuel to power generators that provide up to 10 megawatts of power.

The island, with operates fairly autonomously from its federation partner St. Kitts, does have a 2.2 megawatt wind farm, but it believes that its geothermal resources, producing power steadily, day and night, are the real ticket to supplant that diesel use. With the not-exactly-extinct Nevis Peak dominating the island profile, it’s not hard to see why.

A report [PDF] prepared for the island by Geothermal Management Company stated:

Though both St. Kitts and Nevis have geothermal potential, the indicia on Nevis are larger, hotter, and more geographically constrained than those on St. Kitts. Accordingly, G-C geoscientists believe that a Nevis geothermal resource can be characterized and developed more rapidly and less expensively than one on St. Kitts.

According to the announcement, “Beginning in January 2014, NREI will construct a geothermal power plant and injection and production wells on 79 acres of Crown Land leased from the Nevis Island Administration.” No size was given, but the Nevis Investment Promotion Agency said at least 10 MW – the current peak power need – has been envisioned.

Nevis joins Dominica, a hundred or so miles to the south, as a Caribbean nation chasing the geothermal dream.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • David Lynn Courtney

    A small “Enhanced Geothermal System” (EGS) would work nicely.