Cayman Compass: New push for wind power to aid Cayman’s energy transformation

Cayman Compass | By James Whittaker | April 2023

A combination of wind, solar and battery power like the microgrids used at HMS Eaglet base in the UK can take abuilding completely off grid.

Wind power may be the forgotten element in the Cayman Islands’ spluttering efforts to shift to renewable energy, according to two entrepreneurs seeking to bring new technology to the islands.

Grand Cayman businessman Curtis Eldemire is working with US-based Hover Energy to pitch its wind-powered microgrids to developers, businesses and government.

The company uses 18-foot-high rooftop wind turbines in combination with solar and battery systems to take buildings completely off grid.

It recently installed a system at HMS Eaglet naval base in the UK, providing more than half of the base’s power demands with a single system. It is rolling out similar systems at naval bases across the UK.

Christopher Griffin, CEO of Hover, believes the technology would be perfect for Cayman. He said it would be possible to provide the entire power demands of a condo development, business or community, like Health City, the newly planned airport, or Camana Bay, for example, using the microgrids. Ideally, he said, it would involve a back-up connection to the CUC power grid and the ability to sell energy back to the power company.

But regulatory complications could make that difficult in the Cayman Islands, both he andEldemire acknowledge.

Combining wind, battery and solar in a single system creates enough redundancy to go completely off grid if necessary, says Griffin, who made several visits to Grand Cayman prior to the pandemic to discuss possible applications for the technology.

Cayman possibilities

The company has made a handful of pitches to possible partners on island and is “ready to engage” with authorities to help accelerate Cayman towards its goal that 70% of its energy should come from renewables by 2037, said Griffin.

He said the installations could do anything from a small-scale microgrid to power one building, to a network of connected installations that could provide electricity to homes around the islands.

“What we believe we can accomplish is to help any building, any place, to achieve net zero,” he said.

A Hover Energy turbine-powered microgrid provides the bulk of the energy supply to the HMS Eaglet building in the UK. – Photo: Supplied

The systems utilise existing rooftop space, and could be installed over car parks or on the leading edge of multi-storey buildings, to provide an alternative to utility-scale solar farms, which eat up land mass.

“The best thing you could do in Grand Cayman is to have more distributed power,” Griffin said.

CUC had previously contemplated wind power as an option for East End. But the project apparently floundered amid concerns that it would impact the weather radar system in the district.

The Hover Energy turbines are much smaller than traditional turbines and wouldn’t have that impact, according to the company. Griffin said they are silent and designed to operate effectively at lower wind speeds in urban environments.

Eldemire said he was pushing the technology as a means to help accelerate the slow pace of change in Cayman, with just over 3% of the islands’ energy currently coming from green sources.

“We seem to have written off wind energy,” he said. “Everybody beats up on CUC because we have this 70% target and we are only at 3.3%. Well, I don’t think we can get there with just solar.

“Everybody is dragging their feet. I want us not to be talking about the same problems in another 10 or 20 years.”

Griffin said regulatory hurdles exist everywhere, but the countries that have had most success in hitting renewable targets find a way to get it done.

“It can happen,” he said.

“There is a reason there is a bunch of solar installed on island and that is because somebody made it happen.”

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