Island Countries and Energy Challenges

By Anna Simet | August 16, 2013

Today we’re putting to bed the September issue of Biomass Magazine, the energy crop and algae issue. I’m really looking forward to it reaching the hands of our readers, because its chalk full of great, on-theme stories.

One of my favorites is in the biogas section, where I discuss Tibbar Energy’s biogas project in the U.S. Virgin Island’s St. Croix, with CEO Tania Tomyn. While working on the article, my eyes were really opened to the energy challenges that island countries face (extremely high electricity costs, full fossil fuel reliance/imports).

As I point out in the story, about a year and a half ago, the Hovensa Oil refinery in St. Croix closed, citing low natural gas prices and reduced oil demand as reasons. It was one of the largest refineries in the world, and put over 2,000 people on the island (direct and indirect jobs) out of work. Not to mention, resulted in a $60 million loss in government revenue.

Since then, the island has descended into a pretty serious energy crisis, and is scrambling to find ways to generate cheaper energy (right now USVI residents pay about 47 cents per kilowatt hour). What better way to do so than to use resources already existing on the island, a characteristic common in renewable energy projects.

While Tibbar’s project is growing a fast-growing energy grass for use in a digester—as well as fats, oils, greases and food waste—to produce power, there are other types of projects—different technologies and feedstocks—that island countries (or states) can implement to ease their energy woes. For example, Hu Honua Bioenergy is a 25-MW biomass power plant under development in Hawaii. It’s planning to use fast-growing eucalyptus trees as feedstock, and is working with the University of Hawaii’s Tropical Agriculture specialists to find other alternative appropriate feedstocks. Impressively, this plant will produce 10 percent of the island’s electricity needs.

Another example is in Cuba. In June, the government announced it is building a 20-MW biomass power plant to be fuelled with sugarcane bagasse, as it will be co-located with an existing sugar plant. In Japan, Shell just announced it would turn an existing, closed oil refinery into a 49-MW biomass power plant.

The projects above are good examples of islands taking advantage of their climate, existing resources and infrastructure to develop power projects. Many are really vamping up their renewable energy plans, and have very lofty goals. While these kinds of projects will help alleviate many of the energy challenges they face, particular the reduction of reliance on imported fossil fuels, they are also much cleaner, and will help preserve the beauty that so many islands possess. 


4 Responses

  1. Elaine Munro



    "... they are also much cleaner... [than fossil fuels]" So not true with the Hu Honua, Hawaii project. In fact, the same boiler that was used years ago to produce electricity by burning coal and sugar-cane residue, is planned for use with biomass. This boiler is merely 20% efficient, meaning that out of 10 trees burned, only 2 will produce energy. Also, the EPA's rules on clean air for small biomass plants, such as Hu Honua, are nearly the same as for small coal plants, so your claim of cleaner plants is not accurate for these "under the regulation radar" plants.

  2. Dan



    Careful about quoting energy crops that are in use. Dreams and Hope are not business plans that get funded. At the end of the day it must make economic sense or the financial community will not fund these projects. Simply talking about it will not get the job done. Focus on successful projects that are fiscally viable.

  3. Ted



    You should research your sources before you interview them? Have they done projects before? What is their experience with bio-mass. Lots of folks out there that say they are real, but without experience they are just dreamers trying to extract money. Did you do your due diligence? Have they ever done a project before?




    Our company provides consultancy and have extensive background with several energy crops including ARUNDO DONAX, NAPIER GRASS, MISCANTHUS and many tropical forages and short rotation coppice species. Check out here: Blog:

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