Seth Onyango, bird story agency
São Tomé and Príncipe is verging on a breakthrough ocean thermal energy project that could pave the way for other nations.
In April, the small island nation in the Gulf of Guinea granted UK-based firm Global OTEC approval for the island's first commercial-scale ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) platform.
The project, christened "Dominique", is set to be completed in 2025 and will inject 1.5MW of power into the island nation's grid.
“The Energy Vision of the People of São Tomé and Príncipe is for ocean energy to play a significant role in their lives, as they learned that Dominique could provide us with baseload energy – energy all the time from the ocean, and also to help with food and freshwater security,” said São Tomé and Príncipe Prime Minister Jorge Bom Jesus.
According to ocean engineering firm Makai, which runs a research centre in Hawaii, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a process that can produce electricity "by using the temperature difference between deep cold ocean water and warm tropical surface waters. OTEC plants pump large quantities of deep cold seawater and surface seawater to run a power cycle and produce electricity".
OTEC is considered "base load" energy, providing a regular amount of power all the time. However, the engineering, especially at scale, has been extremely challenging. Global OTEC believes it has the answers to provide small scale power plants.
“History is an important teacher, and we are committed to learning from it. Failure of previous OTEC projects highlights where we should exercise caution, so third-party technical due diligence from the earliest stage is important for our success,” said Dan Grech, Global OTEC’s founder and CEO.
São Tomé and Príncipe has a population of about 200,000 people and relies on imported diesel fuel for most of its electricity needs.
But with global supply chain disruptions and a growing distaste for fossil fuels, the picturesque nation plans to go fully green.
The government's ambitious plans include plugging 50 per cent of clean power into the grid by 2030 and working with UNIDO to develop its much-touted National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Action Plans.
This includes tapping into its abundant renewable energy opportunities, like solar, wind, and hydropower, which the state hopes would give it 100% green power.
Already, the government is on a charm offensive to woo private investments to the nation's fledgling renewable energy sector with a range of incentives.
These include tax breaks, low-interest loans, and faster approvals for green projects. Several private companies have shown interest in tapping into the country’s solar and wind potential.
Last year, climate tech firm Cleanwatts inked a contract with the government for the production and sale of clean energy by working with a public utility to install solar PV plants countrywide. As part of the first phase of the program, the national airports on the island of São Tomé will get a 1,100kW solar PV plant, while the one on Príncipe will get a 300kW solar PV plant.
bird story agency