Dominica continues to push development of geothermal energy

Geothermal activity in Dominica. Photo credit: Matt Drobnik

The development of Dominica’s geothermal energy potential continues to be a major pre-occupation of the island’s government.

Energy Minister Rayburn Blackmore told the media that geothermal energy is “our greatest hope in renewable energy”, and that Dominica is “right ahead” in developing the resource.

The minister says actual drilling of the test wells in Wotten Waven is expected to commence in July this year.

“We have a plan for renewable energy which is cleaner, more reliable and can be cheaper. This is why we are pursuing the project at Laudat and Wotten Waven. In July, we are going to start with the test wells. We already know that the resource exists but we want to prove the quality and quantity. We have identified a contractor from Iceland who will be in Dominica shortly along with his company. The tender for the actual supervision of the drilling of the test wells is currently out,” Blackmoore said.

Development of Dominica’s geothermal energy is expected to give the island a more reliable and affordable source of energy, thereby reducing its dependency on crude oil from other countries.

The long-term plan according to Blackmoore is to build a 120 megawatt power plant, which will have the capacity to provide energy to neighbouring islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

“One can appreciate the long term objective of that project in Wotten Waven and Laudat to build a 120 megawatt power station to sell to the departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Our local consumption, at best, only consumes around 18 megawatts of energy. Therefore, if we are going to build a power station with such capacity, it makes economic sense to us to sell the rest of the 80% that is not used. We are not talking about residue here; we are talking about most of the resource itself in terms of energy generation from that particular geothermal potential. This project is going to be financed by the European Union and the French Government,” Blackmoore said.

The government of Dominica is receiving assistance from the French government in bringing this project to fruition.

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19 Comments

  1. The truth shall prevail
    March 3, 2011

    Dominicans are losing control of their natural resources to foreign ownership. DNO should remind us of that . There are many examples. We can’t continue to sweep those facts under the carpet DNO.

  2. Emil Ti Kwen
    March 3, 2011

    I felt compelled to make some comments on the matter of geothermal energy. Geothermal is NOT our greatest hope in renewable energy. Take the Boiling Lake, for instance. It has failed us many times in the past century and went cold and was emptied completely, when these failures occured. If you are able to have 120 megawatt power plant going, tell us how are you going to transmit some of this power to Martinique and Guadeloupe? Are you going to us air or water?
    The islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are very similar to Dominica in topography and have the same kind of geothermal activities as Dominica. These two islands are French. You mean to tell us that the E U and the French Government are financing the development of geothermal in Dominica and are not helping similar geothermal development in the two french islands?
    If the Government want to develop an INFINITE source of energy development they should try harnessing the prevailing winds, which are non-stop, constant and you don’t have to do modify or do anything to it. All you have to do is to erect some lines of WINDMILLS on the eastern side of the country stretching from north to south. If help is needed the Government can get it from the country of Norway, the greatest producer of wind-generators in the world. Stop knocking your head on geothermal and go to WINDMILLS.

    • Cassandra
      March 3, 2011

      Research and practical experience show that electricity generated by wind mills is still more expensive than that generated by fossil fuels. In fact, in Europe governments subsidize it out of environmental concerns. Secondly windpower is neither constant nor consistent and therefore not suitable as a sole source for an electricity grid that has a sustainable requiremnent.Power would be supplied by undersea cables to both Gudaloupe and Martinique. The technology exists and is proven. For many years now the U.K. draws electricity from France, mostly nuclear power generated, in cases of heavy demand via underwater cable. I can not answer your question as to why the French territories do not develop their own geothermal resources but it is possible that they are not as abundantly accessible as in Dominica or maybe their environmental regulations are more stringent.

      • Ajahbless
        December 16, 2011

        Cassandra, thanks for your contribution to the discourse. You sound informed, intelligent and very credible! i am impressed!

    • Mc Carthy MARIe
      March 3, 2011

      THis time Emil ti kwen, Mr Blackmoore is correct on all points. As to how the energy will get to Guadeloupe and Martinique the power will be transmitted by an undersea cable. As an engineering event this is almost child’s play, but it will be the most expensive part of the project. IN cased you are interested there is already such a cable from Guadeloupe to Marie-Galante. THE cable to Martinique is technically more challenging because the depth of the waterr in the channel between Dominica and Guadeloupe is much greater than between Dominica and Guadeloupe.

      The important point you should have taken from the article is that the economic viability of the project depends on the willingness and ability of the authorities in these islands to place a considerable portion of their energy security inn our hands.

      The second point is that we cannot substantially lower our energy costs without these markets. Think economies of Scale.

      Having wind turbines does not conflict with geothermal energy. In fact because of variability in winds, the output from a wind farm is not guaranteed; there is greater control over the output from a geothermal plant and thus less need for redundancy in the system.

      • pittance
        March 4, 2011

        @ Mc. Carthy Marie. Dominicans have not be given any explanation regarding the expenditure of almost $2,000,000.00 that was collected by a certain Lawyer for legal fees, while the Project itself is on a GO SLOW. BlackMore up to now has not assured the Dominican people whether ownership of geothermal energy resources would remain in their hands. Electricity bills has not reduced wit the installation of Petro Caribe? It was those same politicians who fooled Dominicans into believing that with Petro Caribe, our energy problems would be solved, prices would be much lower and it would be cheaper to do business. Dominica is owing millions in fuel costs to Venezuela. Do Dominicans know how much? Have they been told how much? Of course, a few are benefiting Big Time.

        From day one Dominicans have been sidelined as far as geothermal exploration, exploitation is concerned. Proposals from locals for participation in that project was rejected. We know about that. When push comes to shove, the country will receive pittance as a result of foreign control.

  3. Piper
    March 3, 2011

    Countryman, you giving Blackmore too much credit. He is just shooting off his mouth with the numbers. Wait until the final report comes out. One thing I have learned about listening to the gov’t of Dominica is to never take what they say seriously until you see the final product.

  4. country man - Geothermal development process
    March 3, 2011

    The development of Dominica geothermal resource is a great move, however, this has to be done with transparency and open consultation with all stakeholders. In this age of global awareness of social and environmental responsibilities for sustained development it would be great to know whether an independent social and environmental impact study has been done for the drilling process schedule to begin in July 2011. There are many issues that can go wrong in the development of geothermal power plants that can be mitigated by adhering to proper development process that are known to exist in Europe and N. America. Given that most of the funding and expertise for this exploration work is coming from European sources it would be nice to know that the same development process and principles that are used for environmental and social impact studies are used for the Wotten Waven geothermal development. It would be great if the stakeholder, engineering society, and the community could have access to the findings of these studies.
    Not to scare anyone but below are just a few documented instances of the potential negative effects of geothermal development.
    Geothermal drilling exploration is known to trigger seismic activity
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/01/geothermal_powe.php
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/us/20alta.html

    The discharge from Dry Steam and Flash Steam geothermal power plant can pollute downstream water
    http://b-dig.iie.org.mx/BibDig/P10-0464/pdf/0213.pdf
    There are 3 types of geothermal power plant technologies; Dry Steam, Flash Steam and Close loop Binary-Cycle power plant – see http://www1.eere.energy.gov/geothermal/powerplants.html.
    The Minister has said that they are looking for at developing a 120MW power plant which leads me to believe that the technology that will be proposed is the Flash geothermal power plant since the Close loop Binary-cycle power plant typically comes in smaller modular sizes in the 10s of MW and not 100+ MW.
    As a matter of fact, Flash and Steam power plants pose the highest risk to the environment for a couple reasons.
    1. The effects of potential discharge into the environment
    2. They require very deep drilling in order to get the high temperatures needed for them to work efficiently. Deep drilling has its own issues as seen in Europe and America
    Given these possibilities it would be to everyone best interest if the target power plant is a 15 – 20 MW binary-cycle power plant that could serve the needs of Dominica.
    Another important note to bear in mind is that geothermal power plants resources are not 100% fully renewable. In many instances the wells have to be recharge since overtime the pressure decreases. Without looking at the stability of the resource and jumping into a 120MW power plant we may be doing everybody involved in the process a disservice – If it fails it will be a bad name for the geothermal industry, Dominica, and the developers.
    All of these issues/concerns touch upon can be addressed by establishing a proper transparent development process with open dialogue. Most of this may have already been done and the process may be compliant, but as of today this information is not available to the public.

    • WIKILEAKS
      March 3, 2011

      Great research….thanks much

    • Mc Carthy MARIe
      March 3, 2011

      This is great and useful information. Not a rant as we usually have on this medium. In fact from my personal knowledge the main reason the project has been actively pursued over such a long period of time (since 2000)m has been the insistence of the French engineers involved that a range of geophysical and geochemical tests should be undertaken. You would also have noticed that the drilling to be done in July is TEST drilling. This final exploratory phase will determine the final design of the plant at Wotten Waven including its output capacity. The 120 MW capacity might in fact require more than one plant located in more than one field.

      The French people involved have no interest in sullying their image as engineers and they are taking every precaution to minimize the risks mentioned which of course cannot guarantee that nothing will go wrong.

  5. Piper
    March 3, 2011

    Why doesn’t the government contract the entire project to a European firm that is expericenced in that type of energy generation. They sell Dominica’s need at a guranteed maximum price, the government gets royalties from foreign sales. That way, the project does not get bogged down in government bureacracy and lack of funding.

    • Cassandra
      March 3, 2011

      The geothermal energy rights in Dominica were assigned by Govt.( July 2008) to West Indies Power Dominica Ltd., in which the Govt. was given a 10% stake. This locally registered company, in turn is a 100% subsidiary of West Indies Power Holding B.V. a company registered in St. Maarten, chaired by erstwhile C.E.O. of the National Bank of Dominica, Gregory de Gannes.
      In addition to any dividends the Govt. will also be entitled to 3% of all local- and 5% of all export sales.
      With regard to capital investment funding this will not necessarily come from Europe.
      The initial drilling of test wells will be carried out by a company from Iceland, a country that has great expertise in this field and has strict standards for the protection of the environment.

      I do sincerely hope that, although more expensive, we will insist on a process that recycles the water, after condensation and ensures that no corrosive sulphur escapes into the atmosphere, sea or soil.

    • Antonio
      May 19, 2011

      Do we always need Europeans to control our economy? Why do we only feel safe when Europeans are involved? Is this a result of our colonization?

  6. Positive
    March 3, 2011

    The prospect of geothermal energy is really enticing. If we can truly establish a market in Martinique and Guadeloupe that would mean revenue. It would serve us much better if we could extend the market to Antigua , st Kitss and maybe St Martin. I believe that st Lucia is also exploring geothermal energy resourcing and so Martinique may become competitive. I believe that all Dominicans need to get behind this venture and show unity.It is important that we get this project going ASAP so we can take advantage of the potential markets.
    It is also my hope that the government makes sound decision regarding contracts etc. I do hope that we are not going to put this gold mine in the hands of a foreign entity who like cable and wireless take us for a joy ride.

  7. miss jackson...
    March 3, 2011

    geothermal what are we going to do with it,i guess the hot water sights a relaxation spots will be gone thats what we should be promoting.

    • listen to reason
      March 3, 2011

      What?

  8. Anonymous
    March 3, 2011

    i hope jobs will b created as a result

    • Positive
      March 3, 2011

      The venture should create jobs if we can attract foreign companies to set up shop based primarily on the promise of much cheaper energy. Also if we can extend our market to include Antigua, St Kitts and SM. This project could be the impetus for a total economic transformation.

  9. Cassandra
    March 3, 2011

    I hope we’ll be successful. This poses the question what we are going to do with the oil storage depot at Jimmit. The electricity generating plants, burning diesel, at Fond Cole and Sugar Loaf would be superfluous. Could we dismantle the existing fuel storage at Rockaway and concentrate this activity at the more up-to-date, and less intrusive facility at Jimmit? Would we still need a refinery? And what about the future of Domlec? Would it become a distributor only? If the government cares to share their thoughts on these subjects with us they may gain some useful insights.

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