Aruba, a 19 mile long island in the southern Caribbean Sea, is dependent on imported fossil fuels, with more than 80% of the island’s electricity generated using heavy fuel oil. But over the next half dozen years, that is going to change. Aruba has pledged to transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2020 with particular emphasis on variable wind and solar for renewable energy.
Aruba is making progress toward sustainability as it develops a renewable energy framework, which requires overbuilding capacity or integrating storage technologies to compensate for the variable nature of wind and solar. The Vader Piet wind farm generates part of Aruba’s electricity needs, and there is a second wind farm in development. Additional planned projects include an Airport Solar Park, a waste-to-energy plant, solar panels on residential and commercial buildings. When completed, these projects will generate a substantial percentage of Aruba’s power needs. Aruba is also researching ocean thermal energy conversion, geothermal power, and energy storage technologies.
Aruba will also look to new ways to convert waste to energy and increase energy efficiency. To leverage its resources, the island must address barriers, such as limited open land and steeply sloping seabed. The utility company is working to provide air conditioning using ice that is produced at night when electricity costs are lower. Advanced technology such as floating offshore wind turbines and novel applications of commercial technology may be needed to reach the ambitious 100% clean electricity by 2020 goal.
Justin Locke, director of the island energy program at the Carbon War Room, an international nonprofit, says it makes sense for islands to switch to clean power. “Islands currently pay some of the highest electricity prices in the world. At the same time, they also have some of the best renewable energy resources.”
To move beyond the transition to renewable energy to smart growth, Aruba’s plans include:
- creation of world-class walkable destinations for tourists and residents;
- providing incentives for household retrofitting and commercial energy efficiency;
- implementing a sustainable approach to smart growth in the tourism
industry to create an inspirational holiday destination; and,
- creating an Agriculture sector in Aruba that makes the best use of water
The Green Platform has been the foundational mechanism to develop an land-use and urban planning component for Aruba that promotes the transition to renewable forms of energy.
The Government of Aruba has goals to balance quality of life and sustained economic growth through a sustainable and shared prosperity. To achieve these goals, Aruba promotes economic growth, social equity, and environmental awareness. Aruba has designed an initiative to develop the island as a gateway between Europe and the Americas in the areas of green technology, business support services, and creative industries, which is intended to bring greater economic diversification, stability, growth, and increased sustainability to Aruba.
“Islands provide an incredible blueprint, or guiding light, for what a renewable economy could look like from a technical, financial, and regulatory perspective,” according to Locke, “because they are actually moving in that direction now.”