Conventional fossil fuels are a source of global environmental concern largely due to the global warming potential of the Greenhouse Gases (GHG) that they emit during combustion. The Caribbean island nations through their commitment to the COP21 Paris agreement to reduce GHG emissions have pledged to undertake a shift in their energy supply towards much less carbon-intensive sources. Renewable energy sources, such as wind are central to achieving this ambition. Clean wind energy avoids significant CO2 emissions annually by displacing generation from fossil fuel power plants.
Resorting to the use of renewables, such as wind power to help mitigate climate change is a potentially viable strategy, which can provide an economical and sustainable solution for reducing GHG emissions in the Caribbean.
At the same time, the use of wind energy can assist in meeting the region’s growing energy demands in the future. In this study the potential, viability and co-benefits of developing wind power as a reliable and sustainable energy source in the Caribbean under a changing climate in the near to medium term was evaluated. Wind speed projections under the IPCC A2 emission scenario were analyzed, using a regional climate model for three future climate periods: the near-term (2018-2030), the medium-term (2031-2050) and long-term (2051-2074). The projected changes in wind speeds across Barbados and most of the Eastern Caribbean throughout all future climate periods for the A2 emission scenario varies between ± 10% of the current mean wind climate (2000 – 2016) values. Applying these projected wind speed changes to economic sensitivity analyses for a selected wind turbine, it is seen that avoided emissions averaging 8600 tons of CO2e per 3 MW of electricity generated annually under this emission scenario, are projected.
The use of wind energy to mitigate carbon emissions would also generate important co-benefits for the Caribbean. Assuming a carbon price of $25 US dollars per ton of CO2 for carbon emissions in the Caribbean, a 3 MW wind generating system would avoid $ 79, 140. US dollars annually, and by 2030 could avoid over 1 million US dollars equivalent in CO2 emissions. An additional co-benefit from wind power generation is avoided fuel costs worth $ 28.72 million US for each TWh of wind power produced. For a 3 MW wind turbine , this translates to $ 191, 854 US of avoided fuel costs annually and by 2030 would realize almost $ 2.5 million US in savings, which can be used to finance additional infrastructure for green electricity generation, health, water augmentation and other pressing economic and social needs.