We continue our Geothermal Country Overview series with a feature on Guadeloupe. One of the few non-English speaking islands in the Caribbean, Guadeloupe (French-Caribbean) is also the only island which possesses a geothermal plant in the region with full installed capacity.
Exploration by BRGM and EURAFREP started in the 1960s and four wells were drilled in the 1970s. The first 4 MWe unit was commissioned in the early 1980s (Bouillante 1). Three new wells were drilled in 2001 and a new 11 MWe unit (Bouillante 2), was commissioned in 2005, adding to the first unit. In 2011, the plant contributed almost 5% of the island’s electricity supply.
Originally operated by Geothermie Bouillante and the EDF, the plant is now owned by Ormat Technologies. In 2016, Ormat Technologies became a 60% shareholder of the Bouillante geothermal power plant. Ormat has since utilized its technology and expertise to optimize the existing equipment at the plant and recover the current production capacity since obtaining larger shares. The plant now has a total production capacity of 30 MW and plans are in place to expand to 45 MW by 2021. The plant sells its output under a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with French electricity utility Électricité de France (EDF SA).
Photo credit: Elizabeth Bullock (March 27, 2019) – Bouillante geothermal power plant site, Guadeloupe
In 2017, it was estimated that Guadeloupe could expand up to 50 or even 60 MW in four to five years. The Bouillante geothermal power plant is one of the main contributors to renewable energy production in Guadeloupe and is unique in France as a high-enthalpy source of geothermal power – thanks to a natural and continually replenished hot water reservoir (250°C). Electricity is purchased at a lower price than that produced by oil-fuelled plants. As such, it is estimated that the geothermal plant has enabled a saving of around € 60M in the electricity bills paid by French customers for over 9 years.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Bullock (March 27, 2019) – Inside the Bouillante geothermal power plant
From our past #Geofactsandstats, you would have learned that it generally takes five to ten years to develop and build a new geothermal power plant. A project in the area of Vieux-Habitants has been the subject of studies for several months and exploratory drilling in the most promising areas identified has been scheduled to commence this year. If drilling results match expectations, the plant could potentially be completed within the next two to three years and be in operation by 2022.
It has been shown that consumption of energy and particularly electricity has been progressing for three years at a fairly steady pace. As a result, renewable energies are struggling to keep up and their share in the energy mix is decreasing. According to Jacques Chouraki, president of Teranov, “The geothermal resource is the white gold of Guadeloupe… and it is the only energy of renewable origin that is capable of replacing fossil fuel as the basis of production of electricity.” The long-term energy goal for Guadeloupe in the Caribbean envisions the island state to be energy autonomous by 2030. To achieve this goal, geothermal energy is seen as crucial.
As the only geothermal plant currently in operation in the Caribbean, Guadeloupe has set the pace for the other islands estimated to have the geothermal resource to follow suit. Progress so far has been slow but is moving gradually in the right direction.
Author: Elizabeth Bullock