Post-Hurricane Irma, British Virgin Islands accelerate the move to renewable energy

Tortola, BVI. Image: Gail Frederick.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the British Virgin Islands are looking to enhance their energy resilience and sustainability by turning to renewables:

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) were plunged into darkness for six months when Irma, packing winds of 185 miles per hour (295 kph), uprooted electricity poles and left 400 miles (645 km) of cable littering streets and hillsides.

Like many small islands, the territory has long relied on costly imported fossil fuels to generate electric power.

But to better withstand future disasters, it is now moving toward solar and geothermal alternatives, like many others in the region from Montserrat to St. Lucia.

A series of solar energy projects is due to kick off soon, said Mark Vanterpool, BVI minister for communications and works.

“It’s in our interest to work very hard at getting as much as possible renewable energy produced,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

If there is a silver lining to the trauma of a blanket power outage amid a humanitarian crisis, it is the growing urgency of bolstering the electricity grid with renewable energy, officials and observers say.

Before the hurricane, there was interest in green power, but people were “moving in different directions”, said Kaitlyn Bunker of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a U.S.-based non-profit helping the BVI with its renewable energy transition.

The experience of the hurricane has “catalysed” plans, she added.
On the main island of Tortola, a privately funded 3-megawatt solar project led by local firm Caribbean Alternative Energy is close to being agreed, BVIEC’s Abraham said.

The state utility, meanwhile, aims to set up a 300-kilowatt hybrid solar, wind and energy storage system on Anegada, a remote northern island, once an agreement to lease crown land is signed.

The deal, four years in the pipeline, only made headway after Irma, Abraham noted.

Read more in the full article from Thomson Reuters

[Image: Gail Frederick]

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