Wind energy in Aruba – Riding the Caribbean green wave

Koolman, 34, is a service technician on Aruba’s Vader Piet Wind Park. He has been working for Vestas for just over a year. “Wind turbines have been around in Europe for a while but for Aruba they are brand new and we are very proud of them. So, working for Vestas as the only Aruban, for me, is more than an honour,” he says.

Koolman, who used to be employed as a maintenance supervisor at Aruba airport, says the opportunity to work for Vestas was too tempting.

“I was ecstatic when I got the job because for a technician, I think, it is always a dream to work with cutting edge technology and I was chosen to do just that.”

Koolman lives with his wife and two children in the southern part of the island – the centre of Aruba’s tourism and home to its famous white sandy beaches and high-rise resorts.

He works as part of a three man team, including one other engineer and a site manager.

“On a typical day, I start work at seven in the morning doing administrative work. After that, I tackle any problems with the turbines and see if they need repairing,” he says. “I spend the rest of the time helping our site manager arrange the logistics for the maintenance of the turbines and for any upgrades that are needed.”

Just 11 months after it was opened, the Vader Piet Wind power plant has become one of the best performers on the V90-3.0 MW wind turbine. It currently produces about 20 percent of the island’s entire energy needs.

Despite the success of the wind farm, Koolman says his team faces many difficulties in working on a tropical island like Aruba.

“Logistics, in particular, is a challenge. All wind turbine parts have to be shipped to Aruba. So, if we determine a fault, if we do not have it in stock, it will take several days for it to get here,” he says. “There is no worse feeling than not being able to do anything when a turbine is down.”

Koolman is aware of the contribution he can make to Aruba’s future with wind energy. “As a service technician from Vestas and as a native Aruban, I have a role to inspire and inform Arubans about the environment,” he says.

Koolman envisages a bright future for the island. “In the next five years, I can see Aruba leading the Caribbean in green energy and showing the world that it can be done, if there is a will. Our government is now fully committed to a greener Aruba and has made great efforts and sacrifices to get this done. Our future starts now.”

Did you know?

* Aruba is an autonomous region but is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with only ‘internal’ autonomy.
* Aruba receives about 5,000 hours of good wind conditions a year, making the Caribbean region one of the most suitable places for the use and generation of wind power.
* There are more than 80 different nationalities, including the native Arawak tribe, among the island’s 100,000 inhabitants.
* The official languages in the island are Dutch and Papiamento, a native Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect.
* The island, which is about the same size as Washington D.C., attracts more than 1.7 million tourists a year.