With eleven years left in Government’s self-imposed deadline for Barbados to rely totally on renewable energy, mostly through solar power, an expert has suggested the country is failing to tap into the vast potential of bioenergy.
According to Mark Hill of the non-profit organisation, Design Council SIDS, Barbados is essentially dumping enough organic waste each year, which if converted to energy, would supply more than twice the amount of energy consumed annually.
Hill one of three speakers at a seminar hosted by the Central Bank at the Courtney Blackman Grand Salle, which explored the benefits of bio-digestion, said Barbados produces between 237,000 and 1.5 million tons of biomass waste which could generate 2,250 gigawatt-hours of power per year – more than double the current electricity consumption of less than 1000 gigawatt-hours annually.
“Bioenergy can significantly contribute to Barbados’ sustainable development, build a more resilient and clean society by producing electricity, heat, cooling and transport from all sources of biomass,” Hill said.
He argued that bioenergy has historically been a cornerstone of Barbados’ energy mix with the introduction of sugarcane, noting that the waste product of the canes helped to power sugar factories.
He contended that even though Barbados is currently producing significantly less sugar than in years gone by, the potential energy yield was still significant.
He said: “In 1967 the island was producing 1.8 million tons of sugar cane biomass and now today one factory stands, that being Portvale, who today are currently processing on average 100,000 tons of sugar cane biomass.
“Portvale’s current energy output stands at 11.76 GWh of electricity year during crop season and overall energy output of around 30 GWh of electricity, steam and waste heat.
“Yet none of this current contribution to the Barbados energy profile is being captured in the national data on renewable energy.”
In a bid to spur interest in this form of renewable energy, Hill said Design Council SIDS is in the process of commissioning a 250-Killowatt chicken manure-based, biogas plant in St. Lucy.
Plans are also in the pipeline for a blue economy ocean plastic-to-energy plant, as well as facilities that will produce one megawatt of biogas and 1.5 MW of syngas. Also known as synthesis gas, syngas is a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
Hill declared: “Barbados can and will lead in Bioenergy, in particular, the production of biomethane/renewable natural gas, the production of wood pellets, Syngas, and we will fully explore the economic potential in these resources in order to meet the goal of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.”
As the seminar opened, Central Bank Governor Cleviston Haynes described Government’s undertaking to transition to 100 per cent green energy in 11 years as “ambitious”.
At present, only an estimated four per cent to six per cent of the country’s energy needs was being met by renewables, he said.
“It is ambitious because the transition requires significant investments. But ambitious it needs to be so that we can promote greater energy security, enhance our long-term competitiveness and address the negative spillovers that accompany the use of fossil fuels,” Hill said.