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Consultations under way for Exploratory Drilling for Geothermal Energy

By Reginald Andrew
RESDP Project Manager Ken Aldonza
RESDP Project Manager, Ken Aldonza

While noting the benefits to be obtained by utilsing renewable energy – the Renewable Energy Sector Development Project (RESDP) has initiated a series of consultations on the status of the Geothermal Exploration project and the project’s planned activities for the next six months.

Spearheaded by the Government of Saint Lucia, the RESDP aims to inform the authorities on the viability of the island’s geothermal resources for power generation. The exercise involves exploratory drilling within the Soufriere community in the areas of Fond St Jacques, Belle Plaine and Saltibus.

On Thursday, major stakeholders including LUCELEC, WASCO, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the World Bank and the Exploration Management Company, government ministries and other agencies attended the first meeting which took place, at the Union Complex Conference quarters.

RESDP Project Manager Ken Aldonza provided reporters with an update on the high intensity and volume of work to be undertaken on the project, which is anticipated to be completed by 2026. He said the Intuitional Stakeholder Consultation, among several other consultations is intended to bring stakeholders up-to-date with project activities.

“The project has two objectives: firstly, to inform the government on the capacity for the use of geothermal energy in electricity production,” noted Aldonza.

“So, we are doing exploratory drills in three communities and we are trying to determine whether there exists capacity for generating electricity from geothermal energy in Saint Lucia,” he explained. “The second one is to establish the regulatory environment for private sector investment in renewable energy in Saint Lucia.”

He said the consultations will continue for the next two weeks or so, and also, in the three drilling communities that have been identified for the project.

The RESDP was launched, last November, and the unit will continue to provide the public with data and the location and times for these consultations.

Aldonza informed that the primary consultant has been contracted for the project and will be involved in designing “the civil infrastructure and the geothermal grounds”. Also, in the group, is a Public Information and Communication Consultant and other consultancies, including the Piton Management Demarcation Consultant “who has started demarcation of the boundaries of the Pitons and the Green Buffer Zone.”

This year, he explained, several other contracts and consultancies have to be added. Primarily, the civil works contract has been completed and  consultants will undertake work on geothermal regulations, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and limits of acceptable change regulations. All of these consultancies will be tendered during the course of the year.

Aldonza explained that Saint Lucia was not the only regional territory exploring this geothermal energy initiative, but other islands, such as, Dominica which has not only drilled exploration wells…but is in a position to build a power plant. There is also exploratory drilling going on in Nevis to build commercial wells and in Grenada, as well.

He said, in Guadeloupe, there has been a geothermal plant operating for many years. “So, geothermal energy is not new to the region, but to the Eastern Caribbean English-speaking region it is sort of a green venture”.

Commenting on the viability of the RESDP initiative, Aldonza added: “It’s not entirely ‘hit and miss’, as there is science (involved). We have a double-volcano here, so obviously there is heat. What is not obvious is whether there will be a flow of fluids that can be used to generate electricity.”

He said, there were wells drilled previously and the unit garnered information, but “the wells we are drilling now are slightly different. We cannot drill within the PMA, so a lot of previous drills were done within the PMA and  now we will be drilling within the Green Buffer Zone and outside in Saltibus, as well, as we expect the resource to extend to that area.”

Aldonza explained that for the ultimate presentation, the consultants will provide information on all of the activities undertaken. “We expect the project to be completed by May 2026,and it’s a very tight timeline as we have to do lots of things between now and then,” he said.

Aldonza asserted: “At the end of the project we will have more information to better define what our resources will look like, and whether we have usable resource. We may have reports that will be generated and we will provide that information to commercial entities that may  be interested in investing in geothermal energy.”

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