By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Grand Bahama is being eyed as a 2011 first half testing ground for a unique technology that aims to generate electricity from ocean wave kinetic energy, the project's Bahamian partner telling Tribune Business that if commercial viability was proven it could create up to 100 manufacturing jobs in Freeport coupled with export production.
Scott Albury, president of Neptune Wave Power (Caribbean), speaking to Tribune Business at last week's Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF), said the $3-$4 million research and development (R&D) phase of the company's project was scheduled to start in early 2011, with a 90-day testing cycle anticipated to begin at the first quarter end/second quarter start.
Mr Albury, who is also president of Atlantic Jet Management, an aviation consulting and management company, said the project had received a Letter of Intent from Grand Bahama Power Company, pledging to purchase its electricity if the project's commercial viability was proven.
Adding that support had also been received from Earl Deveaux, minister of the environment, and Phenton Neymour, minister of state for the environment, plus the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), Mr Albury said Neptune's technology would completely eliminate the $0.10-plus per kilowatt hour fuel surcharge attached to Bahamian electricity bills, since it used no fuel.
Explaining that Neptune was a Dallas-based company with whom he had been working for two years, Mr Albury said he had succeeded in bringing its officials to Grand Bahama to assess what the island had to offer.
Following three to four trips to the island, and the receipt of financing for its RDA phase, Mr Albury said Neptune was moving to build its first energy-producing buoy, and deploy it, in Grand Bahama.
Talks were being held, he added, with both Grand Bahama Shipyard and QSL over the contract to construct the first test buoy, while Grand Bahama Power chief executive, Alan Kelley, had been "very co-operative in supporting our efforts.
"We have a Letter of Intent with Grand Bahama Power," Mr Kelley said. "They've agreed to help us any way they can."
Construction of the buoy, which will contain the kinetic energy-producing technology, is scheduled to take place in Spring next year, with deployment in the waters off Grand Bahama for a 90-day testing cycle to follow shortly.
If testing proved successful, Mr Albury said Neptune would move to construct an "array" of three-four buoys to further determine commercial viability, and added: "We need to two-three feet of sea water in order to be 80 per cent efficient with the buoy.
"It's all designed to feed power into the grid and save on power costs. This thing doesn't need fuel."
Moving to mass production, though, will depend on the testing results, available financing, likely costs and the returns in terms of how much electricity the buoys can produce, and the Mega Watts (MW) demanded by customers.
Not to mention the Government permitting and sea bed leases required.
Yet, if all went swimmingly, Mr Albury said of Neptune's Grand Bahama manufacturing potential: "We think there'll certainly be in excess of 100 people involved in manufacturing when this gets up to the scale of commercial viability.
"We're also talking, and this will be an important part of the process, that we think there will be an opportunity to export this product from the Bahamas to other Caribbean countries from the Harbour in Freeport."