S P E C I A L F E A T U R E
Grenada Energy : Don't Stop the Windmill
by James Post
The Eastern Caribbean has the first utility-grade windmill!
James Post, a Dutch entrepreneur has erected a 80 kW Wind Generator at his villa resort in Grenada.
While this size was not the most economical option, it does save on energy cost and is good for the environment. It serves the purpose of demonstrating that wind energy is not just a hypothetical option, but a feasible reality.
When James landed in the Eastern Caribbean island of Grenada in June 2000 after a 30 year career in high tech electronics, the thought soon presented that wind energy would be an excellent option in this region.
Electricity on Grenada is generated by diesel fuel, not the most effective solution, and, of course, bad for the environment. Combined with the strong reliable tradewinds this seemed to be a no-brainer.
JAMES REQUESTED AND WAS GRANTED A LICENCE TO GENERATE ELECTRICITY
James requested and was granted a license to generate electricity via his windmill from Grenlec. Grenada Electricity (Grenlec) like all the Eastern Caribbean country electricity generating companies, is in a monopoly position and every citizen is obligated to use their services.
The licence was granted to generate and supply his own energy to the villa resort he was developing.
But there was no interest from Grenlec to buy, or even accept free excess energy into the national grid from the utility grade windmill.
The project was therefore put on ice until in Spring 2006, when, after successive high fuel increases, the climate was there to reopen the case.
Discussions with the electricity company led to an agreement to supply excess energy from the windmill back to Grenlec.
But first James had to erect his windmill.
As he says "Being first is not always the best as there is no previous experience. As they say in Holland - thrown into deep water".
He project managed the whole installation process, from start to finish.
A technician from the Dutch windmill supplier windmill supplier came over from Holland to supervise the positioning of the tower and turbine. During the process, much time and energy was devoted to training a group of locals, from steel men to electricians.
JAMES IS NOW READY TO INSTALL MORE WINDMILLS ACROSS THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN
James is now ready to install more windmills across the region, using this now fully proven process and a completely trained workforce. The specialists from the Netherlands then only need to come over for the critical part of the commissioning. Further cost reductions can be achieved by producing the towers in the region.
There are two mainstream approaches to incorporate wind energy into the existing power generating infrastructure on the islands :
1. The electricity companies and/or the governments develop a wind park. In the Caribbean the maximum sizes for windmills are between 250 kW and 900 kW, depending on location. Especially the larger windmills are real engineering projects that require long preparation and lead times. By the middle of next decade we could expect real progress when decisions are taken on short notice, which is rather unusual in this part of the world. The wind penetration that can be achieved with the larger systems is technically limited and in the range of 25-30% of the lowest electricity use, or around 10-15% of the average.
2. As happens in many countries all over the world, there are private initiatives to place windmills. In most countries there is legislation that the energy companies are obliged to buy the excess energy at a fair price, usually slightly under or at fossil fuel cost. Such arrangements will be key to promote the breakthrough of wind energy in the region. The windmills installed by individuals (companies) are typically smaller, up to 250 kW. These windmills are much easier to install, have a short lead time and the owners will wish to act swiftly. Very short term action can therefore be expected. There is another major pro: several of the smaller windmills have the capability to dynamically limit the output as a function of demand. This means that much higher wind penetrations can be achieved. So even when a wind farm is scheduled, it makes more sense to implement with small windmills.
ERECTING THE GRENADA WINDMILL
The photo article below describes the different steps of installation after the feasibility and designs have been completed.
As in every technical installation, there are always hurdles on the road. In Europe, small installation issues such as tolerances and wrong materials can usually be corrected instantaneously.
Not so in the Caribbean, where these small issues grow into monsters that eat time and money at an alarming rate .
Then James faced the limitations of cranes that were far less powerful than the owner's assured him they had. The project initiated many firsts for plant and construction companies on Grenada, and lurched from one crisis to another.
"However, after this learning curve, the next installation will be easier, as all problems will then be anticipated" says James with a convincing smile.
A compressor is used to excavate the positions in the rocky ground; this alone took 2 weeks.
6 columns are placed 3 ft under the base to ensure a solid position in the rock.
In the centre of the foundation was a big stone, embedded deep in the ground which proved to be so difficult to remove that we decided to make it part of the foundation. The steel bars were inserted in deep drilled holes.
3 weeks and 8 tons steel later the multi-layer steelwork was ready to receive the concrete.
The tower is to be connected to big steel bolts which are securely embedded in the steel construction.
Two mixers were used to cast 55 cubic yards (40 m3) in one day.
The next morning, curing compound is sprayed on the concrete to slow down the curing for improved strength.
The tower and the crane arrive 4 weeks later when the concrete has reached the specified strength.
Three sections form the 10 ton conically shaped tower.
The removal from the container was quick but with lots of scratches.
That’s where the weekend came in handy: we sprayed the towers with fresh layers of paint.
Not really an unnecessary luxury;…
As it showed on the last minute that the crane was not strong enough to lift the complete tower we had to lift them one by one and mount in the air. Hereto custom mounting brackets were made in a local workshop.
And is famous for their bread from these 100% recycle ovens. Honestly, the bread –inserted on banana leaves- tasted great..
Finally it’s lifting time: the first section is ready to be placed in position.
Meanwhile, the construction of the generator/control room is in progress. As ventilation blocks are “scarce” it is decided to create the same effect using rainwater pipe, to be cast in concrete..
It appears that the holes in the tower flange do not correspond with the bolt positions in the foundation. Later it turned out that the dimensions were copied from the manufacturer’s drawing. Not good enough in this case…
After the sizes were taken the tower is placed back on the ground and the holes are welded out. The freshly painted tower gets the scratches back again…
It almost fits….but not quite. It now shows that accurate measuring balancing in the air is not easy. As a consequence, some holes became too big, which requires correction afterwards.
The last welding takes place in the air and now it fits. The nuts are set to the specified torque.
The second part of the tower needs to be connected in the air and requires safety harnesses.
The second tower half is craned at the approximate position; the men in the tower guide it to fit. The crane enjoys a hefty overtime.
The blades have been mounted on the rotor and are pressure cleaned.
The third tower section is the easiest of them all but requires alpine skills for the crew.
The communication with the crane driver goes by mobile phone. Ooops… battery empty!
The final showpiece: placement of the wind turbine with the 60 ft wide blades. A sigh of relief: we have made it through the difficult part, now just bolt down the turbine.
After the turbine is in position it turns out that the bolts are just too short. It took a day to find the metric bolts in paradise, but the strength appeared to be inferior for this demanding purpose. New bolts were couriered in.
The bolts will be replaced and the base of the tower reinforced with custom made solutions.
The windmill changed the skyline as seen from the ocean. A radio station called it “the biggest erection in Grenada”.
Implementing an integration into the Grenada National Electricity Grid comes next.
PROVING THAT WIND ENERGY IN THE CARIBBEAN IS A FEASIBLE REALITY.
With proper legislation and cooperation of all parties involved, it is by all means possible to let wind energy be a significant contributor to the overall electricity generation. When a substantial portion is delivered by wind energy, this puts the brake on the continuously rising cost of electricity to the consumer. With the low incomes in the Caribbean this is highly desirable. And as fossil fuel burning is a significant contributor to global warming, the environment also benefits.
At first glance, it looks like a win-win-win situation for everybody. But will windmills indeed become a major source of green energy in the Caribbean?
There is another hurdle…. While almost everywhere in the world it is a breeze to obtain financing for the erection of windmills that are interconnected to the mains [and thus have guaranteed income] this is not as obvious in the Caribbean.
One project, where the savings were tremendous (around 30% for both the electricity company and the developer) foundered for lack of financing.
The solutions for renewable energy sources in the Caribbean lie with changing legislation first, and financing second. The rest will blow into place on the wind.
MANY REQUESTS ARE MADE TO SEE THE WINDMILL IN ACTION
Many requests come in to see the windmill in action from tourists. And even more questions are asked by students, hoteliers, ECO organizations and of course potential windmill developers.
To meet this demand James is offering scheduled visits to the facility every Saturday throughout July and August.
11:00 am arrival in La Tante, tour of the facilities
11:30 am visit to the windmill
12:00 pm [optional] lunch at Aloe Vera restaurant (special 3 course lunch 49 EC$) or 4-course Lobster gourmet lunch for EC$ 79. Both prices include drinks before, during and after lunch.
1:30 pm presentation of the environmental, economical and practical issues of wind energy. Evaluation of other alternative energy sources. Discussion on the impact of green energy on global warming and the consequences hereof in general and for the region. Questions.
The program will end at approx. 3 pm. depending on the number of questions. There is no charge for the presentation itself, only for food & beverages visitors choose to order.
The times have been selected such that even visitors from other islands can come on a morning flight and return the same evening. For those who wish to stay a little longer other points of interest are suggested :
• a nature walk, you can start right at the resort; this is one of the most beautiful parts of the island. You will meet a variety of landscapes, Robinson Crusoe type beaches, mangroves, rivers, rainforest, while you stroll from beach to beach.
If you come from outside Grenada you might want to stay longer and enjoy:
* Carnival (12-14 August), which is a really nice experience.
* an island tour. Grenada has much more to offer than nice beaches. Gorgeous rainforests with waterfalls, quaint villages, the heritage from centuries ago, the friendly local people and food.
Special accommodation rates are available. Inquiries: (473) 405-8888
AUTHOR : James Post built the Paradise Bay Villa Resort during the past years with the first villas ready in April 2007. Owners may choose to live there full time or part time, with the option to rent out during their absence against a guaranteed yield. The nine 1000 SF 2-bedroom/2 bathroom villas are very competitively priced, often as low as half the price compared to more developed islands. The 8 acre resort is located amidst a vast nature area on one of the most gorgeous parts of the island. All villas have ocean views. Owners have the advantage of sharing the infrastructure, maintenance and security at extremely affordable conditions. Special evaluation visit rates are available.
Contact Us Here
jamespost at spiceisle.com
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