Now, however, Caribbean Utilities Company is presenting us with plans for renewable energy generation that we’re happy to characterize with another “-st” word: modest.
Last week, Grand Cayman’s electricity provider announced it had struck deals with two U.S. companies to construct solar and energy generation facilities in the eastern half of the island. Representatives from the two companies provided more details on their goals for Cayman and developments elsewhere in the world.
CUC’s diesel generators currently can produce about 150 megawatts of energy. The two new projects call for the installation of 10 megawatts of solar energy and 3 megawatts of wind energy, replacing 4 percent of the diesel fuel burned by the power company. CUC imports about 30 million gallons of diesel fuel per year, meaning the renewable energy projects could save 1.2 million gallons of diesel fuel per year.
It’s a good start and a promising one, at least on paper.
The two companies, International Electric Power of Pittsburgh and New Generation Power of Chicago, can point to a track record of involvement in similar projects.
The companies say they can generate solar energy at 20 cents per kilowatt-hour and wind energy at a cost of 14 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to CUC’s charging customers 34 cents per kilowatt-hour for diesel energy. (Of that, CUC pays about 20 cents for fuel costs, 4.5 cents for government fuel duty and 10.5 cents for other costs.)
There are a lot of “ifs” to be overcome, but if it proves that solar and wind energy can be generated, distributed and sold in Cayman at a price on par with or below the price of diesel energy, that will form a strong foundation for a market-oriented argument toward further diversifying Cayman’s energy sector.
We can’t predict what the price of oil will be in 10 years or what the cutting edge of energy production will be.
Perhaps a revolutionary discovery will make biodiesel dirt-cheap or diesel combustion pollution-free.
Perhaps the costs of solar and wind power will never go down far enough to supplant fossil fuels. Perhaps sufficiently advanced waste-to-energy technology will metamorphose Mount Trashmore into a pile of treasure.
That’s not in the foreseeable future, however.
For now, solar and wind power are two of most established and proven renewable energy technologies, and on the surface at least, appear to be the most appropriate for Cayman’s sunny and breezy climate.
We hope government stays out of the way of the two companies and allows them to construct the solar and wind facilities with a minimum of red tape and official interference.
While solar and wind may not be as exotic-sounding as compressed liquefied natural gas, mini-nuclear or plasma gasification, let’s remember that most of us are using electricity to run the air conditioner or boil water. New energy technology doesn’t have to be exciting; it just has to work.