By Monique Washington
The development of geothermal energy on Nevis will be a huge, long-term project that will take at least several years to complete, according to Carlisle Powell, the former Minister in Charge of Energy. In an exclusive interview with the Observer, Powell pointed out major flaws in the plan that will add millions of dollars to the proposal due to infrastructure requirements.
In an exclusive interview with the Observer, Powell questioned if the proposed geothermal project will be practical and cost-effective. Hecautioned that the infrastructure to complete the project will require major construction to run underground power lines within the community to provide electricity.
Powell doubts Nevis Renewable Energy International’s (NREI) ability to “switch on” a geothermal plant in Nevis by year end 2017.Powell steered the first geothermal project in Nevis with West Indies Power (WIP). He cautionedthat NREI has released many press releases but to date no physical work has begun on the project.
“There is just too much to be done to hit the targeted date,” Powell said. “We are in the first quarter of 2016. How can they do all this drilling? There are no drilling rigs in Nevis. They (NREI) will have to get drilling rigs from where-ever it they are in the world and bring them to Nevis; they will then have to assemble the rig do the drilling, which comes with all sorts of danger, but they are assuming they will be able to do all of this.”
In addition to being drilled, Powell explained, production wells have to be tested. The materials to build the geothermal plant must be manufactured and shipped to Nevis in bits and pieces.
Powell pointed out that because Nevis is prone to hurricanes, overhead power lines are a bad idea.
“The linessupplying power to the consumer can’t be overhead,” Powell said.“If we put all our eggs in one basket and rely 100 percent on geothermal, hurricane- proofmeasures must be taken. If you run overhead power lines, you know what happens when we get a hurricane. We lose a couple of poles and power goes out in that area. It’s necessary to place cables underground. Nevis has hard soil and rock, so any project requiring drilling takes a long time. Also, high-voltage wires must be at a proper depth.It would be impossible to do all of this by 2017?”
Powell said he doesn’t see the project being completed before the next election in 2018.
“They areraising the hopes of Nevisians and those hopes will be dashed,” Powell said. “These people are not miracle workers.I support geothermal on Nevis. I wish we could get it by 2017 and at a price that makes sense.”
NREI is a subsidiary of Texas-based Thermal Energy Partners LLC,a Geothermal Energy company that provides resilient, renewable and base-load power to utilities, industrial and critical infrastructure clients worldwide.
According to the plan, NREI is committed to hire, train and employ, to the maximum extent possible, Nevisians in site development, planning, construction and operations phases of the project.
Nevis Electrical Company Ltd. (NEVLEC)charges between .47- .51 cents per kilowatt per hour. NREI indicates it will chargebetween .48 and .52 cents (US.18- .20 cents) per kilowatt hour.
According to Powell, the Nevis ReformationParty-led Nevis Island Administration (NIA)negotiated with WIP for better terms.
In 2007, WIP received a license from NIA to explore for geothermal resources on Nevis. Plans to start the project were shot down when the Federal Government refused to guarantee NIA more than $250 million to help fund the project.
“We negotiated for around 10 cents per kilowatt.” Powell explained. “Based on that price (US .18),it is almost double the price negotiated by NRP. At the time they(Concerned Citizens Movement (in opposition)) called it a huge inflated price, yet here we are nineyears later and they are now negotiating a higher price.”
Powell questions NEVLEC’s future due to NREI’spromise to use geothermal to supply 100 percent of the island’selectricity.
“NEVLEC will be left poorer,” Powell explained. “When we negotiated with WIP it was to make NEVLEC richer. We would purchase geothermal energy at about $.10 per kilowatt that would join the engine mix. Electricity would be sold to consumersfor less than what it was then at normal price.”
“Geothermal will benefit NREI, its friends,hanger’s-on and anyone looking to collect on the side from geothermal,” Powell concluded. “But,to the average man on the street, the package and the pricing that we have heard, the people of Nevis will have to pay and will be ripped off compared to the NRPproposal.”