Intelligent Energy

Volcano power: Saint Lucia to tap into geothermal energy

Volcano power: Saint Lucia to tap into geothermal energy

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In a quest for energy independence, the Saint Lucian government signs an agreement with Qualibou Energy Inc. to develop and export geothermal power.

The volcanic islands of Saint Lucia and Martinique may soon be steaming up some energy independence.

Currently the two islands, as do many in the Caribbean, import petroleum from mainland countries such as Venezuela and Mexico. A 2007 CIA estimate puts St. Lucia's oil imports at 2,747 barrels a day.

The St. Lucian government and American company Qualibou Energy have agreed to construct geothermal power plants to help provide electricity to the island's 175,000 inhabitants. The company takes its name from the Qualibou volcano on St. Lucia's southwestern coast. The 2,549-foot volcano's last known eruption occurred in 1766. But surface volcanic activity near the caldera is hardly dormant, with hot springs, sulphur-spewing fumaroles, and pools of boiling mud.

Exploratory drilling has found geothermal reservoirs with temperatures of 455 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Qualibou, the project could produce 120 megawatts by 2015.

In a statement, Qualibou President Stephen Baker:

The resource on St. Lucia has proven reserves of 30 Megawatts and probable reserves of an additional 140 Megawatts. In oil terms, the proven and probable reserves are 60.1 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), representing a very significant asset for Qualibou. Production drilling plans are underway and a drilling schedule will be announced in the near future.

When this occurs, the French territory Martinique (population circa 400,000) will also be tapping into the region's volcanic energy. With a proposed 30-mile undersea pipeline, St. Lucia plans to export 80 percent of it geothermal power to their northern neighbor. The remaining power will head to St. Lucia's electrical grid run by LUCELEC, the island's sole electric utility.

Many members of the Lesser Antilles volcanic arc have demonstrated potential for geothermal power as well. Operating since 1986, the Bouillante geothermal plant on Guadeloupe has provided about 8 percent of the island's annual power needs. Saint Kitts, Nevis, and Dominica have also been exploring their geothermal reservoirs.

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Image: Flickr/Trent Foley
Via: e360

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure