CUC recentlyannounced the installation of new diesel generators that cost the company a reported $85 million US dollars.
The new 40-megawatt generators are able to power roughly ten thousand homes and were put into service in Cayman a little more than a month ago. The power plant, which provides nearly all of the energy consumed in Grand Cayman,was several years overdue for upgrades to their equipment and this addition will reduce power outages and improve the overall dependability of the grid.
CUC officials also reported that the power company, which has a monopoly on energy production in Grand Cayman, has plans to integrate renewable energy sources into the system. Though received by a largely skeptical populace, CUC reps state that solar or wind sourcescannot generate enough reliable energy to justify being implemented on a grand scale. The new diesel generators account for nearlyforty percent of Grand Cayman’speak power demands. Some advocates on-island are calling for a switch to 100 percent renewable energy sources but CUC has repeatedly cautioned against expecting too much too quickly. Going completely solar wouldrequire roughlyfive hundred acres of land and they say that right now that large of a parcel is not readily available. They also report that the reliability of solar power at nighttime and when the weather is pooralong with battery storage issues inhibited the company from reducing its dependency on fossil fuels.
At present Caymangetsroughly three percent of its energy from green sources and CUC expects this to rise to eight percent when the new Bodden Town solar farm comes online in the future. In the long term the uptake of green/clean/renewable energy will depend on the availability/cost effectivenessof power sources such as solar and wind.CUC plans to bring the community into the discussion to help determine the possibility of more sustainable energy sources in the coming years. The new generators, in the meantime,run cleaner and more fuel-efficient than the older, more antiquated machinery that is nearing the end of its useful life span.
Improving energy efficiency is lowering power usage at the individual level but a growing population in Cayman is driving overall consumption upward. CUC is excited about the possibility for green/clean/renewable energy in the future but the company states that it needs to be responsible and balance that want with an obligation to provide consistent and reliable energy services. The company makes a distinction between consistent power sources and sporadic sources that depend on timing and what’s going on with the weather. They state that it is simply impossible to supply more than +/- twenty percent of peak energy demand from sporadic sources without risking the occurrence of rolling blackouts and interruption from bad weather. It seems that for the time being cleaner, more efficient diesel energy production is the course CUC will be traveling. But, as technology drives innovation and the cost to go green and clean comes down, we could see the Cayman Islands and CUC shifting towards renewable and more environmentally friendly sources of power generation.