In 2009, the Virgin Islands was almost 100 percent dependent on imported oil for electricity, water desalinization and transportation, resulting in electricity costs that were nearly four times the US national average. At that time, the Virgin Islands began a pilot project as part of the Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN) initiative.
With support from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the Virgin Islands set a goal of reducing fossil fuel use by 60 percent by 2025.
Five years later that goal is on target as the Virgin Islands’ fossil fuel use is down 20 percent. Renewable energy achievements include:
- A solar plant installed at the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, one of the largest photovoltaic systems in the Caribbean, saves nearly $1,000 per day in electricity costs.
- Energy efficiency upgrades on 11 schools produced an energy cost-savings of $1.3 million the first year and $1.7 million the second year. As a result, the Virgin Islands’ government has authorized $35 million in funding to install lighting and water retrofits in 34 more schools.
- Nearly 1,500 solar water heating and PV systems have been installed throughout the territory, and 15 MW of distributed solar PV are either in place or under construction.
- DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has collected the wind resource data needed to develop the territory’s first commercial wind farm.
As a result of its success, the US Virgin Islands has been recognized as a regional leader in clean energy and has begun sharing best practices with other Caribbean nations. The Vice President’s Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI) is replicating DOE’s model of engagement in the Virgin Islands.
Photo by Jennifer DeCesaro