The U.S. Virgin Islands have a five times greater energy consumption per capita than the U.S. mainland. Oil fired generators provide the islands electricity. But it also has a great resource for renewable energy.
Two million of us feasting tourists a year leave a lot of leftovers. So much so, actually, that the territory has faced EPA fines for excess solid waste and has almost run out of places to put the 146,000 tons of garbage we leave behind every year.
The Recovery Act offers $8 million for renewable projects in the Virgin Islands, which has no renewable power as yet, despite abundant solar and wind potential. But the energy potential of all those leftovers might be even greater. And here’s a company that wants to use it:
Alpine Energy Group plans to develop two waste-to-energy plants to burn up all that waste, producing steam to make electricity for $440 million, from a renewable energy source. One 33 MW plant will be built on St. Thomas; the other 16 MW plant will be built on St. Croix. They’ll be complete by 2012.
The technology breaks municipal solid waste down into a homogeneous material and shreds it into “fluff”, then sends that through a separation procedure that removes any remaining metals. The remainder is then compressed into pellets which are burned, to make steam to drive turbines to make electricity.
Of course it’s possible that that “five times greater energy consumption per capita than the U.S. mainland” is a sort of statistical fart. After all, with only 100,000 locals and 2 million tourists coming through every year, maybe that “per capita” count is a bit off. But still, relying on oil-fired generators for electricity doesn’t help help the carbon footprint of these gorgeous islands.
A waste-to-energy power station kills two birds with one stone. It makes good use of the inevitable mess we leave behind to power yet more romantic celebration dinners to come.
Image: Flikr user mothernature