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Island of Dominica makes strides on geothermal energy

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Dominica, heralded as the "Nature Island of the Caribbean," Dominica, is pushing to become completely reliant on geothermal energy. Government officials say that this policy addresses growing climate change concerns, high electricity costs along with an ambitious goal to become carbon "negative" by 2020.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dominica is prone to climate-linked natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding and landslide. Hydropower accounts for 40 percent of the country's electrical power, Dominica also remains highly dependent on imported oil. People here pay the highest electricity prices in the Eastern Caribbean.

The project at hand will require the construction of a small power plant for domestic consumption. A much larger plant of up to 100 megawatts of electricity will be built for export to the neighboring French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told Parliament in July that his government had invested $11.2 million in test drilling and would spend an additional $13.3 million to develop geothermal power in the island's Roseau Valley.

The Roseau Valley is one of the most popular destinations for nature lovers, with lush rainforests, rivers, waterfalls and hiking trails. The valley is also home to the world's second largest boiling lake and accounts for 65 percent of tourism revenue in Dominica.

Test drilling confirmed that the valley's geothermal resource was of excellent quality and sufficient to generate more than 120 megawatts of electricity.

Energy costs in Dominica continue to affect "the quality of life of families, individuals and the competitiveness of businesses," and this project could reduce the price of electricity by 40 percent, Skerrit said.

The project has the potential to transform the island's economy and ensure commitments to the environment are met, harnessing alternative, renewable sources of energy is seen as crucial for Dominica, Vince Henderson, chairman of the government's geothermal negotiating team says.

"Dominica has tremendous geothermal capacity. This project will not only bring us energy security and independence, but geothermal energy will reduce our contribution to climate change and demonstrate leadership in switching from over-reliance on expensive, dirty, fossil fuel generation," he said.

Some fear potential negative impacts. "I believe the level of secrecy surrounding the project is troubling," one valley resident says.

"We should have been brought to the table to discuss what is about to happen in our area, with our land and with our health . We know of the dangerous gases down there and we fear possible contamination of our streams and water supply. We just want our questions answered."

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