Wind farm plans halted

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Plans to erect a wind farm in Grand
Cayman have been put on hold indefinitely after the government determined that
the wind turbines would interfere with a new $4.6 million early warning weather
radar system.

The radar system, which will be paid for
by a 4.1 million euro (CI4.1 million) grant from the European Union and
$500,000 from the Cayman Islands Government, is being set up to improve the
accuracy of early warnings for hurricanes and other severe weather in Cayman
and in the region.

Work was already under way to determine
whether a site at High Rock in East End – about a mile from the Wilderness Farm
where the Doppler radar system will be erected – is a suitable location for a
wind farm, and a 250ft-tall antenna was erected there in August. Now, all negotiations
between CUC and the company that had bid to set up the farm have been
suspended.

National Weather Service Director
General Fred Sambula said: “From the National Weather Service standpoint, it is
critical we have an early warning system. That is an important part of good
governance. We are not against alternative energy… I wish we could find a way
for the [wind farm and radar system] to coexist,

“At this point in time, there are
numerous problems associated with the wind farm being located near the radar.
The turbulence created by the blades chopping the air… produce what we refer
to as ‘false echoes’ which could be misinterpreted and interfere with the
system.”

Mr. Sambula said with current technology
there is nowhere in Grand Cayman a wind farm could be situated without
interfering with the radar system. “Grand Cayman is not feasible,” he said,
adding that if a wind farm was located on Cayman Brac, it would be unlikely to
interfere with the Doppler system. “But, that would have its own set of
logistical problems,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Cayman Islands
Airports Authority signed a contract with a German company, Icon Institute, to
provide technical assistance to design, tender, construct and commission the
digital Doppler weather radar station on Grand Cayman.

The airports authority will implement
the Doppler system, which will be managed by the National Weather Service once
it is operational. It is scheduled to be built next year.

The Caribbean Utilities Company received
bids from private companies in November 2009 to begin work on establishing wind
energy in Cayman. In June, BCHR Ltd, which represents Renewable Energy Systems,
received planning permission to erect the 250ft-tall mast that would track wind
speeds at the 16-acre site in East End. There had been no objections to the
erection of the mast at the Central Planning Authority meeting.

“CUC and the bidder have been advised
recently that in light of the government’s Doppler radar proposed location, the
wind project could not proceed. CUC and the leading bidder have, therefore,
decided to suspend further negotiations until government is able to find a way
to allow both initiatives to coexist,” said a statement from CUC released on
Friday.

“CUC remains committed to bringing new
technologies to Grand Cayman if they make economic sense and offer benefit to
the island and to our customers,” the statement read.

The Ministry of District Administration,
Works, Lands and Agriculture, in a press release, said it “fully supported” the
placement of the Doppler radar system at the former Wilderness Farm in East
End, which had previously been used by Northward Prison.

“This site was identified by a team of
experts from the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation as the most suitable for
the optimal functioning of the radar. They looked at accessibility, power
supply in the area, elevation and the fact that the site was inland, protected
from sea spray,” the ministry statement read.

“Proposals have been received to
establish a wind farm in the same area, however national and regional safety
concerns make the choice for the Doppler equipment site inevitable,” it added.

It said Cayman was currently in a “black
hole” of weather information, “a precarious situation given the fact that our
Islands’ location puts us in a hurricane convergence zone. As such, Cayman is
considered to be at higher risk of hurricanes than any other island in the
region,” the ministry statement said.

According to the ministry, due to a lack
of a local radar, Cayman had been taken by surprise by several storms over the
years, including Gilbert in 1988, Mitch in 1998, Ivan in 2004 and Paloma in
2008. “These systems all took us by surprise in one form or another due to the
lack of localised weather information,” the ministry said.

The radar station will also serve the
entire Caribbean, joining a network of radar network coverage which includes
Doppler radar stations in Belize, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

“We are finding that for decision
making, people need more real-time information. The only thing that really
gives real time information is radar. Take the case in point of the recent
storm Nicole where the National Hurricane Center was having problem identifying
the centre and tracking the storm. If we had radar, we could have advised the
Hurricane Centre on that,” Mr. Sambula said.

The ministry has insisted that
supporting the Doppler radar project “unreservedly is not a move against
alternative energy”, adding that the plans for the radar system had been in the
works for almost a decade. “The need for this equipment has been
well-documented and researched,” the ministry statement read.

“Furthermore, securing the necessary
funding from the European Union took years of advocating for this important
resource. If this opportunity is not utilised at this time, then there is every
chance that the necessary funding will be withdrawn,” the statement said.

The experts from the Caribbean
Meteorological Organisation examined five or six sites in the Cayman Islands
and determined that the site at Wilderness Farm was the best one, Mr. Sambula
said.

The National Weather Service director
hopes that at some point a wind farm and the radar can coexist. “Technology is
continuing to develop. This is not the only place where this problem exists. It
exists in various parts of the world that has radar and wind farms. There are
many people out there seeking possible ways of resolving this in the future,”
he said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. it’s a good thing the government stopped the windmills. They are ugly, take up way too much room and are noisy.

    There are cleaner ways to produce electricity. Mini nukes.
    safe, small, and effective. 4 could generate enough electricity for this entire island, at half them costs than we currently pay now. Becuase the fuel doens’t cost much to run them. Uranium rods.

    And no, the mini nukes would not cause another chernobyl. Todays reactors are very safe.

  2. Why put up a radar system that will forever stop us from using the wind to produce electricity. How can a hurricane sneak up on us. Any weather system originating or coming any-where near Cayman is immediately targeted by the USA as a threat to their east coast. This radar system will only serve the privileged to get on the plane a little earlier as they leave the Island for safer haven. Our citizens in the flood zones will still get flood out, and the leaky roof will still leak, and they will still pay for the damage the hurricane cause CUC. Of course you can only appreciate the EU for their help and making some mention of Swamp and Rock hole recently, maybe they understand better than our elected the priorities.

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