Wind farm possible in 3 years

Grand Cayman could have its first operating wind farms within three years, according to the head of the island’s utility company.

The Caribbean Utilities Company invited proposals from companies last year to partner with it to provide windpower to Cayman and so far, nine companies overseas and locally have submitted proposals, CEO and president of the company, Richard Hew said.

‘We’re looking at a project getting started in the next eight to nine months,’ he said, adding that it would likely be two-and-a-half to three years before a wind farm would begin to generate electricity.

‘We have not signed anything as yet. We sent out a request for proposals and we got some good responses, eight or nine of them who are looking like credible developments who could carry out this project successfully.

‘Now we will go to the competitive process and seek more formal requests for proposals,’ he said in an interview with the Caymanian Compass.

A 2003 report showed the cost of doing a wind project was not financially viable at the time, but the large spike in the price of oil last year prompted the company to examine an alternative to its diesel-powered generators.

While the price of fuel has gone down considerably since then, Mr. Hew said that wind power would reduce carbon emissions and also hedge against future fuel increases.

A report released at a recent climate change conference in Cayman showed that the majority of carbon emissions in Cayman were as a result of electricity generation on island.

Meanwhile, CUC has revised how much additional electricity will be needed in Cayman in the coming years, due to the global economic slowdown.

The company had originally been prepared to meet increasing demand for electricity on Grand Cayman by installing three 16 megaWatt generators over the next three years.

One of those generators is expected on island in the next six weeks and is due to be operational in September this year.

CUC had informed the Electricity Regulatory Authority that the island needed an additional capacity of 16 megawatts per year in 2011 and 2012, but due to a lower forecast growth in demand, that has been revised by 12 months.

‘That has been delayed due to the economic downturn. Now we’re looking at 2012 and 2013,’ Mr. Hew said.

Under the terms of a licence issued by the government to CUC last year, the utility company is no longer the island’s exclusive generator of electricity and must compete with other bidders to generate the 32 megawatts of additional capacity.

Mr. Hew said the company was reviewing all its capital and operating expenditure in light of the economic downturn.

‘Because we have the obligation to serve, we cannot be too conservative,’ he said. ‘We cannot say we don’t think the island will grow so we will not install facilities and then not be able to meet demand. That would lead to power outages and we don’t want that. We pride ourselves on our reliability.’

CUC has 15 diesel and two gas turbine generators with a combined capacity of 136.6 megawatts.