Renewables’ role in the Dominican Republic's future power mix

By the Potencia correspondent

The Caribbean area has a huge potential for renewable energy production, especially solar power. However, countries like the Dominican Republic have not created the infrastructure needed to obtain electricity via these sources.

However, this is changing. Spanish company Isofoton is to become one of the first firms to build a solar photovoltaic (PV) plant on Dominican soil thanks to an investment of $150 million, according to the Spanish news agency Efe.

The construction of the solar plant is scheduled to start this month. The plant will have an installed capacity of 44 MW and it is expected to be fully operational by early 2013. It will be located in La Victoria, approximately 15 km from Santo Domingo, the country's capital.

This future solar PV plant is expected to be one of the most important solar power plants in the whole Latin America region. Its output will supply electric power to about 58,000 families, and will help to reduce the Caribbean nation’s carbon emissions.

Latin America's potential for PV power is "huge" according to Isofoton's chairman, Angel Luis Serrano. The company he heads up is developing another solar project in Ecuador.

Besides, Isofotón will open a new solar farm in the United States by November.

The Isofotón project in the Dominican Republic is not the only one in the country. German company JRC Electronic has recently started construction of a solar farm in the Monte Plata province, which is expected to add 54 MW to the country's overall power production.

The solar plant is on schedule to be operational in the first few months of next year, according to La Nacion Dominicana. The investment for Monte Plata project will be similar to the Isofoton's plant. Monte Plata project will comprise 200,000 solar cells once complete - there are 2000 solar panels currently installed.

JRC Electronic also has plans for new solar projects in the provinces of San Pedro de Macorís, Santiago and San Cristóbal. These plants, together with the one in Monte Plata, will have a total installed capacity of 150 MW.

A switch to renewable energy in the Dominican Republic is high on the agenda because currently most of its electricity production is based on fossil fuels.

Existing renewable energy comes from hydropower stations, which generate about 14 per cent of overall production. Some now argue that now is the time to take advantage of the country's potential to generate electric power from renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, which do not damage the environment.

Wind power is also set to play a key role in the country’s renewable energy future.

According to the local daily newspaper, Hoy, a Strategy for Renewable Energy report claims 13 per cent of the country's territory registers winds speeds of 7 metres a second or higher, indicating wind energy’s economic viable.

The study was conducted by the National Energy Commission (CNE) and identifies the provinces of Pedernales, Baní and Montecristi as the ideal locations for wind farms.

The Guaranillo wind farm, for example, is located in Montecristi and is due to come online in 2013 with an installed capacity of 50 MW. Parques Eólicos del Caribe (PECASA) is the project developer.

The Dominican Corporation of State Electric Companies (CDEEE) has also signed two power purchase agreements with private firms that are committed to building two wind farms over the next 18 months. The total capacity of both projects is 100 MW.

Both wind farms are being helped financially by the Inter-American Development Bank, which will invest $195 million. According to the CDEEE, such investments demonstrate the confidence of private sector in the future of renewable energy in the Dominican Republic.

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