Dominica’s geothermal plant is progressing at pace. Three test wells have been drilled, without incident, and the country’s geothermal energy bill is expected to pass later in 2014.
According to the Minister for Energy of Dominica, Mr. Rayburn Blackmoore, “I have been so advised that to generate energy you need to have a minimum of 180 degrees Celsius based on the reviews we have gotten thus far, it is above 235 degrees. I think that this is tremendous for us going forward,”
In 2009, the Dominican government in collaboration with the Regional Councils of Guadeloupe and Martinique and energy and environmental agencies of the neighbouring French territories, banded together under the Caribbean Geothermal Initiative to undertake a surface investigation study to determine the island’s geothermal potential.
The Exploratory Drilling Project began on the island in October, 2009 with the establishment of the Geothermal Project Management Unit and the awarding of a technical assistance contract to the consulting firm of Electroconsult (ELC) of Italy. The main purpose was to prove the quality (geochemical, geophysical, geological and geotechnical) and the extent of the geothermal resource in the Roseau Valley (Wotten Waven – Laudat). The project cost $11.98 million USD and was jointly funded by the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), the European Union (EU) and the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica (GoCD).
In 2013-2014, three test wells were drilled in the Laudat and Wotten Waven, part of the Roseau Valley area, funded by international donors Agence Française de Développement, the European Union, and public funds from Dominica. The intention is to construct a 10 to 15 MW geothermal plant as part of the larger initiative to transition Dominica to a carbon negative economy by 2020.
One study showed that “such a geothermal plant could result in a reduction of electricity bills by 45 to 50 percent”.
The World Bank’s situational analysis also assessed Dominica’s geothermal resources and how to actually integrate the new geothermal energy into the existing power system, backed up by a comprehensive review of financial feasibility and social impact. The World Bank’s Model for Electricity Technology Assessment (META) demonstrated that geothermal energy would require the lowest operating and management costs for the island over the long term, and that once completed, a geothermal plant’s operating cash flows would be much less variable than other options including diesel-powered plants.
The government signed an agreement with the Iceland Drilling Company (who is also developing geothermal on Montserrat) to drill two full-sized geothermal wells in the Roseau Valley area at a cost of 6.7 million dollars. The plants are soon to be operational.
There remain some concerns with local residents in the Roseau Valley. The main worries include the issue of noise pollution and the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). However, talks with residents and site visits have alleviated many of the concerns. The key will be maintaining an open and inclusive dialogue going forward.
It will be interesting to see what develops later this year, especially for other eastern Caribbean islands with similarly promising geothermal energy.
UPDATE: The project has hit unexpected delays but not abandoned. Read More.