Richard Branson Launches A Green Energy Plan For The Caribbean.
In 1979, when Richard Branson bought the 74-acre Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, he paid less than $300,000. It was untouched, undeveloped, inhabited only by birds and jungle critters. Back then, no one worried a wit about carbon emissions, ocean acidification, rising sea levels. To bring electricity to his island retreat Branson, like virtually everyone else on the small islands of the Caribbean, installed diesel generators.
As far as fuels go, diesel is hard to beat. It's easy to transport and contains a lot of energy in a small volume. It's already ubiquitous in the islands as fuel for boats. And ...view middle of the document...
To help the cause, Carbon War Room and RMI have worked with the World Bank and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation to earmark $300 million for new renewable energy projects in the islands.
Necker Island will be the first to make that shift. Within three years Branson aims to be using solar and wind, with battery backup, to provide for 80% of Necker's energy needs, with a long-term goal of 100%. Branson has contracted with NRG Energy to build Necker's renewable micro-grid.
"What we hope to do is use Necker as a test island to show how it can be done," said Branson in a statement. "The only way we're going to win this war is by creative entrepreneurship."
Among the world's CEOs and billionaires, Branson has real environmentalist cred. Sure the founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Airways, and now Virgin Galactic is responsible for millions of tons of carbon emissions over the years. But he's been trying to make up for it. As early as 2008 his airline flew a Boeing 747 from London to Amsterdam on a low-carbon fuel made of babassu oil and coconut oil. He's also a backer of the new solar-powered airplane SolarImpulse.
Jon Creyts, a managing director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, was in attendance at the conference, and shared with the group RMI's research on just how much sense it makes for the islands to shift from diesel. According to Creyts, when you factor in the costs of fuel, transmission and capital investment, the average cost of electricity in the Caribbean ranges from 32 cents to 65 cents per kwh. That's as much as five times what the average American pays for electricity. Most of that cost is in the diesel; a 1,000 kw diesel generator running at 100% capacity gulps about 70 gallons in an hour. That equates to .07 gallons per kwh. At current diesel prices in the Virgin Islands of $3.50 per gallon that comes out to 25 cents per kwh in diesel.
Compare that with the U.S. Energy Information Administration's figures for the all-in costs of other generation methods. Gas turbines can do about 7 cents per kwh, offshore wind 22 cents, and solar photovoltaic 14 cents.