Caribbean Island of Bonaire Aims for 100% Wind Power by 2015

Currently, the promise of many renewable energy sources is limited by the fact that they simply can’t generate enough energy to satisfy an entire city, county, state, or country.

It’s fitting then that the first nation to rely exclusively on renewable energy would be a 113-square-mile island in the Caribbean Sea. On Monday, reported that the former Dutch colony of Bonaire, an island located off the coast of Venezuela, has set a goal to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2015.

Bonaire’s only power plant burned down in 2004, and the island’s government responded by creating a plan to rebuild its generation infrastructure in exceedingly green fashion. According to istockanalyst, the island, with peak electricity demand of about 11 megawatts (MW) decided to construct a hybrid wind energy and diesel power plant, which will comprise an 11 MW wind farm supplemented by a 14  MW diesel power plant, including a 3 MW energy storage system.

To go fully renewable, the island hopes to use biodiesel derived from salt-water algae to power the diesel plant within five years. In addition to the environmental benefits of a windenergy and algae biodiesel powered society (zero emissions, zero pollution), the Energy Development in Island Nations website predicts that power consumers on Bonaire can potentially look forward to a 10% to 20% reduction on their electricity bills; the rate reduction will take effect the very first day the project goes online.

Boinaire’s transition to clean energy began in 2006, the wind turbines and wind/diesel power plant have been built. The next five years will be spent perfecting algae production and biodiesel refining processes to manufacture fuel.

No pollution, no greenhouse gas emissions, no dependence on imported oil—if all goes as planned, Bonaire will be living the ultimate green energy dream in just five years’ time. Though the applying of Bonaire’s plan to other parts of the world simply won’t work for a number of reasons, the tiny nation’s example can at least provide some inspiration by showing that fully renewable, earth-friendly energy consumption is an attainable goal.


Greening the paradise: renewable energy in the Caribbean

While the Caribbean territories depend mainly on energy imports to fuel their needs, the island of Bonaire is to produce 100% of its energy from renewables by 2015, showing the opportunities and challenges the West Indies faces on the road to energy self-sufficiency. Given the region’s vast and varied resources, it will likely be only a matter of time before its renewable energy capacity soars.

The 27 sovereign states, overseas departments, and dependencies that together form the exotic holiday destinations of the Caribbean have historically relied on fossil fuels, oil in particular, to supply the energy needed for their predominantly agricultural- and tourism-based industries. Many of the incumbent utilities are monopolies which operate with traditional business models that are highly reliant on the price of crude oil.

Having seen its only power plant burn down in 2004, the Caribbean island of Bonaire, part of the Dutch Antilles, has revealed plans to invest in a hybrid wind-diesel power plant, which will comprise an 11MW wind farm supplemented by a 14MW diesel power plant, including a 3MW energy storage system. However, the island wants eventually to produce 100% of its energy from renewables, and within five years’ time is hoping to replace the diesel with bio oil from salt water algae grown on the island.

While the Caribbean harbors great potential for renewable energies, this potential must be tailored to the specific needs and locations of the many individual territories. Opportunities for hydro and wind power, solar thermal and photovoltaics, geothermal energy, and biomass from bagasse and wood waste are in plentiful supply across the region. However, the lack of awareness and knowledge of renewable technologies, hesitant utilities, and slow and conservative energy policy development have so far hampered the greater uptake of renewable energy. In addition, the threat of hurricanes, disagreements over the use of land and funding problems have created barriers preventing a move away from carbon fuels.

The Caribbean Community’s Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme is now aiming to address these problems by bringing together politicians, utilities, and investors from around the region. Funding has also been made available recently through the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.

Not only would the increased use of renewable energy reduce carbon emissions and consumers’ dependence on fossil fuel price volatility, it may also help economic development through employment opportunities and training, and create competitors capable of taking on the monopolies in the different territories. As other energy self-sufficiency initiatives, such as Denmark’s island Samso, have been proved possible, Bonaire’s project should be watched closely by other Caribbean regions and islands, and considered a trial for their own future energy development plans.

By Josh Garrett,