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Ex-CIA boss Woolsey tells Bermuda to go solar

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Bermuda needs to end its dependence on high-priced imported oil for its power and fuel needs.

That was the message from James Woolsey, the former director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, as he spoke at Business Bermuda’s AGM yesterday.

He suggested solar power was the way to go, while ethanol and methanol were other good options.

Mr Woolsey said the cost of oil has become increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

Of the top ten oil exporter countries, he said nine were dictatorships or autocratic leaderships.

Furthermore, he said countries that control some 80 percent of the world’s oil, pump only about 35 percent of it, which he said amounted to a conspiracy to keep prices up.

“Oil is a strategic commodity,” he said.

He said Bermuda was much like Hawaii in that it’s almost 100 percent dependent on imported oil/fossil fuels for its energy needs. In the US, for example, it was estimated in 2005 that 40 percent of the nation’s energy came from oil, 23 percent from coal, and 23 percent from natural gas, while nuclear power supplied 8.4 percent and renewable energy supplied 7.3 percent.

According to the CIA factbook, Bermuda’s estimated electricity production was 675.6 million kWh in 2007, coming all from imported oil, totalling 4,804 barrels a day.

“It’s a huge burden on Hawaii and I imagine it’s a huge burden on Bermuda,” he said.

“What I think you should be looking very hard at here and in Hawaii is what’s happening in the solar industry.”

He said solar technology today is close to being able to give $1 per watt or 10 cents a kilowatt hour of electricity with sunshine and up to 30 cents from stored solar power, compared with 40-45 cents a kilowatt-hour for oil-generated power.

He also pointed out how Brazil, with its large sugarcane production, makes ethanol and 90 percent of its vehicles are now “flex-fuel”, meaning they can pull up a to fuel station and select either regular gas or ethanol to fill up. He said only minor changes to a vehicle and its software could make it flex-fuel able.

Hawaii, which was 90 percent dependent on imported fossil fuels for its energy needs, has come up with the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, to put the islands on a path towards as much as 70 percent clean energy (a 30 percent reduction through energy efficiency and 40 percent of electricity sales from renewable sources) by 2030.

In Bermuda solar panels have been catching on with residents and businesses.

Gosling’s is installing the largest commercial solar panel system in Bermuda to date.

Bermuda’s Alternative Energy Systems (AES) will put in a 570-panel photovoltaic (PV) solar energy system on the roof of the main warehouse. Goslings said the 136-kilowatt system would produce more than 17,000 kilowatt hours or more than $6,500 worth of electricity per month based on today’s cost of electricity.

Lindo’s was AES’s first commercial installation, which saw the completion of a 300-solar panel system in May 2011. The system produces approximately 11,340 kilowatts of energy per month, enough to handle between 40 and 60 percent of Lindo’s load requirements at any given time.

Government has said 51 applications were made for solar developments in 2011, more than four-times more than were submitted in 2009.

In addition, Belco’s Interconnection Policy, allows members of the public to put excess energy from solar power back into the electrical grid, and be paid for it.

A Belco spokeswoman said that there are currently 43 customers taking part in the scheme, an increase of 23 in the last year.

Government has offered incentives to encourage the adoption of small-scale renewable energy systems, including a solar panel rebate scheme and zero-rate import duty on items for use in harvesting power from renewable sources.

The CIA factbook said Bermuda’s estimated electricity production was 675.6 million kWh in 2007, all from imported oil, totalling 4,804 barrels a day.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Former CIA director James Woolsey with Premier Paula Cox at the Business Bermuda AGM yesterday (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Former CIA director James Woolsey (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Former CIA director James Woolsey (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 23, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 23, 2012 at 8:06 am)

Ex-CIA boss Woolsey tells Bermuda to go solar

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