Independent energy key to sustainability
Bermuda must strive towards energy independence if it has any hopes of sustainability, according to a local engineer.
Stuart Kriendler, managing director at BE Solar, points to another small island, Aruba, which is on course to become fully energy independent by 2020 thanks to a number of clean-energy investments and initiatives.
Geographically comparable to Bermuda in size and climate, the Caribbean island signed an agreement with Sir Richard Branson and the Carbon War Room — an independent non-profit organisation that seeks to reduce carbon emissions and advance the low-carbon economy — four years ago to transition to 100 per cent renewable power, a plan Sir Richard purportedly proposed to the Bermuda Government.
In 2014, St Lucia, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands also took the first steps towards phasing out diesel generators and, similarly, in 2011 the Energy White Paper set a less ambitious goal of 30 per cent renewable energy in Bermuda by 2020.
Currently, 98 per cent of the island's power is generated by diesel, putting solar at less than two per cent.
“They're (Aruba) talking about getting to 100 per cent renewable in 2020 — incredible goals,” Mr Kriendler said.
Roughly 20 miles by six miles, not at all dissimilar to Bermuda, Aruba has relied upon solar, wind and geothermal resources to power the nation.
Mr Kriendler said Bermuda was a prime location for renewable energy development. Petroleum resources are scarce, relying on a volatile market, and renewable resources such as solar and wind are plentiful. Added to that, energy prices are high as there is no opportunity for “economy of scale” advantages that large land masses enjoy.
Economy of scale refers to the cost benefits that larger enterprises obtain through the spreading out of expenses over increased units of output.
During the summer, Bermuda's power usage peaks. This is also when the island is richest in solar energy. Taking advantage of these abundant renewable resources is an important foundation in efforts to become self-sustaining, said Mr Kriendler.
He said that running on diesel means that the cost of electricity in Bermuda averages about 35 to 45 cents per kWh, about four times what it is in mainland America.
Hawaii, on the other hand, averages 32 cents per kWh.
He said that our current reliance on outside fossil fuels damages Bermuda. “It hurts our foreign exchange reserve and it hurts Bermuda because the money doesn't stay in our economy, whereas every dollar invested in solar, every kWh, that much energy for the next 30 plus years, offsetting that oil, stays in our economy creating a multiplier effect on job creation and local spending.”
He said Aruba was not an entirely fair comparison because they rely heavily on trade winds and our offshore wind resource has yet to be fully investigated.
Jonathan Starling, executive director of Greenrock, said the high cost of installing solar panels and offshore wind turbines was initially daunting.
“There are some challenges with developing large-scale renewable energy systems here, particularly offshore wind,” Mr Starling said. “I understand the main challenge is the cost of the submarine cables — primarily the cost of bringing in a specialist ship for that on account of our relative remoteness.
“That doesn't mean it's not possible. Just that there are some challenges.
“However, while smaller scale options such as micro-wind-turbines and home solar installations can have upfront costs, they ultimately pay for themselves, and their cost is constantly going down as well.”