Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Nevis Gets Hot for Energy

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Nevis Gets Hot for Energy

Article excerpt

THE THERMAL spring that feeds the Bath Stream in Charlestown has flowed for at least three centuries on the island of Nevis. Its 104[degrees]F waters run down and merge into the sea among the white sands of Gallows Bay. On Nevis, signs of geothermal resources are never far from the surface. The Bath Stream is a tourist attraction and the locals also use it for therapeutic purposes, since the waters are thought to cure or ease rheumatoid and arthritic pains.

In 1778, a local planter capitalized on the natural geothermal resources and built the Bath Hotel which became one of the most famous hotels in the West Indies. The rich and famous, even royalty, frequented the hotel especially to use its geothermal baths, built over the underground thermal spring.

The Cades Bay Soufriere is another geothermal curiosity on Nevis. It is made up of two sulfur springs, or soufrieres, that were formed in 1953 after a series of minor earthquakes on the island. The soufrieres emerged in sweet potato fields on a place called Cades Bay Estate. Johnnie Clarke, who worked at the estate at that time, remembers smelling sulfur prior to the discovery and that one worker had reported that the ground was hot under their feet.

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Recently, the focus on the geothermal properties of Nevis has shifted from their value as tourist attractions to their promise as a source of sustainable alternative energy. Exploration for geothermal energy purposes on Nevis was initially proposed through the Geo-Caraibes project of the Organization of American States. "The OAS convinced the governments of St. Lucia, Dominica, and St. Kitts and Nevis to explore the feasibility of geothermal resources," says Starret Greene, OAS National Director for St. Kitts and Nevis. Tests revealed that there was more potential for finding geothermal resources on Nevis than on St. Kitts. Disappointed in its search for external funding, the Nevis Island Administration decided to pursue exploration on its own and granted a license to West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd. to conduct exploratory drilling.

When steam jetted from the first drilling site, Nevis 1, at Spring Hill on June 2, 2008, it was not just a geological curiosity; it was the beginning of renewable sustainable energy for the island. Kerry McDonald, Chief Executive Officer of West Indies Power believes that the well has capacity to provide 34 megawatts of electricity--far more than the 11 megawatts currently used by the people of Nevis. …

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