Making Islands and Individuals energy independent


Henry Shillingford

Henry Shillingford was born in Dominica and was educated in the United States and the U.K. He is an environmental activist and practices law in the capital, Roseau.

Christopher Warren lived as a child on the island of St. Lucia. He is a writer and photo-journalist. He is a resident of Italy, where he promotes alternative energy. He has spent several months of each of the past ten years in Dominica.

Christopher Warren

Most of the islands of the Caribbean rely almost entirely on diesel generation for their electricity. However, The Commonwealth of Dominica currently generates almost 30% of the power with three hydro-electric plants in the Roseau valley- that in the 1960s provided power to 90% of the population. After the rural electrification of Dominica in the 70s and 80s, with power lines going over very difficult mountainous terrain and through the dense rain forests, the grid became much more vulnerable to disruption by natural events. Tropical storm Erika in 2015 caused considerable damage to the island's infrastructure- power lines were downed, and the roadway on the Atlantic side of the island is still interrupted. However it was the category 5 Hurricane Maria in 2017 that was most destructive. Essentially 90% of the island was left without electricity for a year or more. Almost equally, Barbuda was hit very hard by the category 4 Hurricane Irma, also in 2017.  It is likely that such storms will be more frequent and more powerful in the future, and so the OECS islands are particularly at risk. Further, electrical lines are prone to failure, damage and there is also the issue of transmission line loss that can be up to as much as 20%. It has become clear that the transmission of power from a central generating facility via power lines is not sustainable. So, there is a strong argument for off grid alternative energy applications, with battery back-up systems particularly in the more remote areas of the islands- if not total electrification by renewable energy development. Solar, hydro, wind and wave energy are abundant and can be harnessed relatively easily.

A paradigm shift in power generation is essential for the future well-being of Dominica, the Caribbean and the world as a whole. With that aim, Naturenewables is partnering with NantEnergy to build a pilot project in the town of Stowe, Dominica. Funds are being solicited to set up a 200 KW solar array that will power 20 homes, the estate house, the local fishery, and a small boutique hotel. NantEnergy zinc-air batteries will be installed for back-up energy. Once the efficacy and relative low-cost of a local off-grid system is proved, the goal is to replicate such systems throughout the island. To that end, several other communities have been identified on Dominica, including the town of Petite Savanne, that has been without power since 2015.  Further, NantEnergy has agreed to have Naturenewables be their agent in the OECS. As a result, pilot projects are also being explored on some of the small islands of the Grenadines.

The government of Dominica has declared that it wants the Commonwealth to be energy independent by 2030. Why not 2020? What better place than Dominica, popularly known as the Nature Island, to be as an example for renewable energy, where various renewable energy applications could be tested to determine which is most appropriate for the islands of the OECS as a whole, with a view to making all the islands energy independent within 10 years maximum.

What footprint will U leave?

  1. 1) A common goal of renewability and sustainability for all of the islands

  2. 2) Energy autonomy

  3. 3) Leaving no carbon footprint

Strong, yet enlightened steps to give communities power over their energy

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