The Daily Herald reports, that, today, the majority of the electricity power on Bonaire comes from renewable sources.
For local residents the switch from fossil-fuel to green energy systems has made a world of difference. Like many Caribbean islands, Bonaire originally relied on diesel fuel to generate electricity for residents, with a peak demand of 11 Megawatts. This fuel had to be shipped in from other nations, resulting in high electricity
rates for inhabitants, along with uncertainty about when and how much they might increase with changing oil prices.
In 2004, everything changed when a fire destroyed the existing diesel power plant. Although tragic, the situation provided an opportunity for Bonaire to consider what kind of new electricity system to build. Temporary diesel generators were rented to provide power for the short term.
Meanwhile, government’s utility company WEB began working together to create a plan that would allow Bonaire to reach a goal of generating 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources. The island is now
home to 12 wind turbines with a total of 11 Megawatts of wind power capacity, which contributes up to 90 per cent of the island’s electricity at times of peak wind, and 40-45 per cent of its annual electricity on average.
Battery storage (6 Megawatt Hours) is included in order to take advantage of available power in times of excess wind and provide that stored electricity in times of low wind. The battery also boosts the reliability of the overall system; it is capable of providing 3 Megawatts for over two minutes, allowing time for additional generation to be started when there is a sudden drop in wind.
The Bonaire system also includes 14 Megawatts of diesel generation from five generators, which provide the necessary power to meet the load when there is not enough wind-power available. The generators are equipped to run on both traditional diesel, as well as bio-diesel.
The next steps in the island’s energy transformation involve using local algae resources, grown in the large salt pans on the island, to create bio-fuel, which can then be used in the existing generators. This will allow Bonaire to operate a 100 per cent renewable electricity system – with on average 40-45 per cent from wind and 55-60 per cent from biodiesel.
The new electricity system led to more reliable electricity, more employment opportunities, reduced dependence on oil (and its fluctuating prices) and a reduction in electricity bills. Bonaire residents currently pay US $0.22 per Kilowatt Hour for electricity, much lower than prices on other nearby Caribbean islands, which are often $0.36 or above. On Saba the current cost are approximately $0.32 / KWh.
When oil prices spiked in 2008, while Bonaire was still using temporary diesel generators before making its transition to renewable sources, electricity prices on the island reached $0.50.
The new electricity system also created jobs for the construction and ongoing operation of the wind farm and for research and development of algae production capabilities and conversion to biofuel. Additional employment opportunities will be created for continuing algae production and operation of the biodiesel plant.
The success of the updated electricity system on Bonaire provides an important example to other nearby islands of the opportunity to achieve high levels of renewable energy penetration.
The original article appeared to be written by Kaitlyn Bunker and was first published on the site Ecowatch.com.
It created quite some comments from Bonaire residents indicating that some information in the article was incorrect. See below: