Claim: Climate Superstorms May Scuttle the Caribbean’s Green Energy Plans
Guest essay by Eric Worrall
What power system is most likely to survive a category six superstorm?
Climate change may scuttle Caribbean’s post-hurricane plans for a renewable energy boom
MASAŌ ASHTINE, UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES, MONA CAMPUS
April 20, 2018 Updated: April 20, 2018 11:02am
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Masaō Ashtine, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus
(THE CONVERSATION) Puerto Rico lost electricity again on April 18, seven months after Hurricane Maria first knocked out the island’s power grid. For people in some remote rural areas, the blackout was more of the same. Their power had yet to be restored.
The dangerous fragility of Puerto Rico’s energy systems has put other Caribbean countries on high alert. Across the region, electric grids are dated, ailing and overburdened – making it easy work for a powerful passing storm.
Caribbean nations also rely heavily on oil and diesel imports to fuel their power plants – a dirty and expensive way to produce energy. So even before the 2017 hurricane season, Caribbean governments were trying to integrate renewable energy sources like wind and solar into their existing grids.
Unfortunately, I believe that climate change will also complicate the region’s transition toward renewable energy. The Caribbean is comprised of island nations, which are the world’s most vulnerable places when it comes to rising seas, changing weather patterns and other effects of global warming.
Installing more wind, solar and hydropower – the world’s most reliable and common renewable energy options – would seem to be a more obvious step in the right direction. Between 2015 and 2016, the global capacity of these green power sources rose 9 percent – nearly half of which comes from the widespread adoption of solar panels.
But, in a Caribbean of increasing weather extremes, these green energy systems are themselves vulnerable.
Modern wind turbines, for example, were first engineered in Europe – a region that rarely experiences Category 5 hurricanes. Wind speeds above 165 mph would tear the turbines apart.
Coal, gas, zero emission nuclear – all these systems can be armoured. Properly constructed nuclear power plants are already heavily armoured.
Wind turbines, solar panels – not so much.
Granted Fukushima suffered a meltdown when the cooling systems were destroyed by a Tsunami, but Fukishima was old technology; modern passive safe designs like pebble bed reactors physically cannot melt down, even if all their cooling infrastructure is physically destroyed.
Burying the power lines should also be a no brainer. Well constructed buried power lines are not damaged by storm winds, and are more resistant to floods.
Contrast this to the blindingly obvious risk that even normal storms will smash fragile solar and wind power installations, let alone the worsening superstorms climate change is supposed to deliver, and it should be obvious to everyone except greens that renewables are a complete fail for delivering reliable electricity in storm prone regions.
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