Published On: Wed, Nov 21st, 2012

Barbados looking to develop ocean resources

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) – Barbados is actively exploring the possibility and benefits of using ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and to this end, Minister with responsibility for Water Resource Management, Dr David Estwick is visiting Japan to learn more about this alternative and environmentally-friendly type of technology.

Speaking during a press conference at his ministry last Friday, he explained that Barbados was very interested in the development of a blue economy, where the ocean would be a fundamental component of the economic development of the country.

Estwick pointed out that this was critical, as Barbados' resources extended beyond its 166 square mile land mass, with its continental shelf measuring some 200 miles.

"At the last energy conference held here some six months ago, the Minister of Energy would have met with a contingent from Japan regarding an evaluation and doing a study tour of ocean thermal energy conversion to produce electricity and to produce desalinated water as well as [for use in] aquaculture.

"The technology was developed in the 1930s... [But] because of the new oil crisis and the potential for increases in fossil fuel costs, the technology is now on the front burner. As a result of that, The Bahamas is now constructing two new OTEC plants to produce the electricity that they want from the ocean," the minister explained.

In the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, the Virgin and the Cayman Islands are also constructing ocean thermal energy conversion facilities.

Estwick suggested that OTEC technology holds great potential and possibilities for Barbados.

"Can you imagine if you can produce electricity from the ocean, what it would mean to Barbados not to import fossil fuels? Can Barbadians imagine what that would mean? And the cost of producing electricity from the ocean is comparable to coal in the United States, which is 8 cents per kilowatt hour. Right now we pay 90 cents per kilowatt hour," he explained.

In addition to producing electricity, the water resources minister said the conversion process also produced desalinated water, which could service the country.

While on the trip, Estwick and an official from the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) will tour and observe several OTEC plants in operation.

With regard to the BWA, he said the generation of electricity from the ocean would go some way in lowering its operating expenses, which in turn could benefit other critical local sectors.

"Right now we are paying about $30 million per year in electricity costs. Some six years ago, that cost was $21 million... One of the things I want to do in going to look at this process, is to find a way that we can give conciliatory rates to the development interests in Barbados, that is, manufacturers and farmers as far as I am concerned, should be paying a developmental water rate; but I cannot do it at this stage unless I can have an abundance of water at such volumes where we can pass on those significant savings on the production side to the people of Barbados," Estwick pointed out.

By Andre Skeete

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