Geothermal power plant to be operational by June 2018
The government says the island could be making use of geothermal energy by 2018.
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves says the results of the surface exploration phase of the geothermal project "support the earlier conclusions suggesting that Mount Soufriere is hosting a high temporary geothermal reservoir of commercial use".
Gonsalves said that if everything "goes well and on schedule", the geothermal plant is scheduled to begin operation in June 2018.
"VINLEC is hoping for even earlier, but that is the timeline which is being given in respect of all the tests which are being done," he said in reference to the state-owned St Vincent and the Grenadines Electricity Company, which will distribute any electricity generated from geothermal sources.
Current peak demand for electricity is 20 megawatts, with five megawatt generated by hydropower. The government is exploring the development of a five to 15 megawatt geothermal power plant to add to base load.
Gonsalves said that the surface exploration phase, which began in November 2013, includes resistivity surveys, with 34 magnetotelluric and transient electromagnetic (TEM) sounding sites.
"However, due to land-access challenges - because of the terrain - a further 10 to 20 TEM station soundings are required," he said.
The North America-based energy and services company Emera and Iceland-based Reykjavik Geothermal are funding the exploration phase of the project.
The project team, since mid-August, has been doing aircraft flyovers and thermal infrared and LIDAR imagery to search for geothermal anomalies.
"Now, I just want to say this, that very shortly, we are going to see these planes flying over. I want, in this way, to indicate to forest users that these planes are entirely innocent. ... . They are not there in search of anything else," said Gonsalves.
"Because as the forest users are aware, since this government has come to office, there has been no use of aircraft to address any form of agriculture in the hills," Gonsalves said in an apparent reference to the illegal cultivation of marijuana in the nation's interior.
He said the project phase would also include an infrastructure study, an environmental impact assessment study, and a volcanic risk mitigation study.
business case model
"It is expected that by June next year, a business case model will be available and drilling can commence after all contracts and the private public partnership agreements have been negotiated and agreed," he said.
Gonsalves also said that the government continued to seek opportunities for funding of the geothermal project, either by grants or soft loans, and has held talks with regional and international organisation such as the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Japan International Corporation Agency, and other entities.
"Because if we were to get a significant amount of the monies either as grants or soft loans, the extent of the equity which they themselves have to put in, that is to say, the Emera/Reykjavik Geothermal consortium, will be reduced to that extent, and then it will obviously be reflected in the kind of pricing which you will have for the commodity at the end of the day," Gonsalves said.
The government of New Zealand is offering technical advice on the geothermal project.