Wind power joins grid

    Only six consumers have signed up for the revamped buy back programme.

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    For the first time, a little bit of electricity on Caribbean Utilities Company’s power grid is being supplied by a wind turbine. 

    Jay and Nancy Easterbrook erected the turbine two years at their Lighthouse Point eco-friendly condo development and dive operation in West Bay, but since the property is fully powered by solar, the wind turbine has been sitting idle. 

    The Easterbrooks join a small group of six alternative energy producers who have signed to sell “green” energy to CUC at a price of 37 cents per kilowatt hour. 

    Producers who join the revised Consumer Owned Renewable Energy, or CORE, programme are required to sell 100 per cent of their generated energy to CUC and buy power back from the company at the retail cost, which is currently 35 cents per kilowatt hour.  

    Mr. Easterbrook said: “Our small wind turbine should make [an estimated] $5,000-$6,500 a year in West Bay,” adding that wind turbines operating in more ideal and windier locations, like East End, would generate more energy. 

    “East End is where wind power needs to be installed. Even Barker’s point would be a great location. The Brac Bluff location could supply all of the Brac power with a wind farm,” said Mr. Easterbrook, who has previously been critical of the CORE programme and is pressing CUC and the Electricity Regulatory Authority to implement a different buy-back system called net metering. 

    “Net metering is where we can sell back the excess carbon-free solar power after we consume what we need,” said Mr. Easterbrook. 

    He said he was the first and only licensed wind power operator to sell energy back to CUC. 

    Plans to erect a wind farm in the High Rock area of East End were scuppered last year when the government determined that giant wind turbines would interfere with a new $4.6 million early warning weather radar system. 

    National Weather Service Director General Fred Sambula has previously said that with the existing technology, there is no site in Grand Cayman where a wind farm could operate without interfering with the radar system. 

    However, smaller standalone wind turbines like the one the Easterbrooks own would not interfere with the weather warning system. 

    Lighthouse Point is powered by solar energy which generates four to five times more power than the condos and business can consume during the day, so the wind turbine, which sits beside the property’s dock, is not used.  

    At night, the property runs from battery banks of stored energy from the solar generators. The Easterbrooks are not selling the excess energy created by their solar power system to CUC. 

    The money CUC pays the Easterbrooks for their wind power is divided between the owners of nine condo units at Lighthouse Point. 

    “This is a step forward for my condo owners to get a return on the wind turbine as it has been sitting idle for two years because we had no place to put this power,” he said.  

    In February, CUC and the Electricity Regulatory Authority announced the launch of a new version of the CORE programme. The previous version, launched in March 2009, attracted only three people and offered producers 20 cents per kilowatt hour for their generated electricity. 

    The newer version, also known as a Feed-in Tarriff, or FIT programme, is being run as a pilot scheme for one year, ending in January 2012, or until a quota of one megawatt of capacity has been filled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

    Currently, the total capacity of the six customers in the programme is 54.5 kilowatts, which is just under 5.5 per cent of the one megawatt quota. 

    “The CORE customer will be billed monthly at the normal retail rate, in this case, CI$0.35 cents per kWh, for their total energy consumption and will be credited monthly at the FIT rate of CI$0.37 cents per kWh for the total output of their renewable generation system to the grid. The FIT rate is guaranteed for 20 years which will allow potential CORE customers to evaluate their investment today with assured revenues in the future,” said CUC spokesman Neil Murray. 

    When the programme launched in February, the retail rate was 30 cents per kilowatt hour. That has risen by 5 cents per kilowatt hour in the intervening months. 

    CUC late last week launched a request for expressions of interest from commercial renewable energy producers to build and operate alternative power generating facilities to provide up to 13 megawatts of sustainable energy generating capacity. (See page 5). 

    lighthousepoint

    Nancy and Jay Easterbrook are the first to sell power from a wind turbine back to CUC. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
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    5 COMMENTS

    1. Windpower generators cannot be installed in the East End, which would make most sense, due to the location there of the weather early warning system.

      Surely the early warning system could be somewhere else, perhaps West Bay to remove this problem.

      It seems a crying shame to be forced to rely on expensive diesel generated energy when we live in such a windy place.

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    2. The CUC doesn’t want renewable energy competition. The CORE program is unfriendly to renewable energy and makes it impossible to repay an investment in alternative energy. Until the government approved monopoly CUC is forced to allow net metering, alternative energy will not succeed in The Cayman Islands.

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    3. Ongoing investment in solar and wind power is absolutely a positive step in the right direction. The name of the game is renewable energy which will reduce our dependence on foreign oil as the main source for energy. Renewable energy is much cheaper, cleaner, and far better for the environment.

      I agree with the comment that the early warning system could be easily relocated elsewhere on the island to facilitate a wind farm in East End.

      The price of oil keeps rising and rising with no end in sight with a negative impact on the economy.

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    4. The cost of oil will definitely rise; the cost of wind will never change!
      The CUC will become a thing of the past due to this vast natural resource.
      ?Government?,let Caymanians become Wind Farmers!

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