Caribbean island turns to microgrids in quest to become fossil-fuel free

The island of Aruba is a step closer to becoming fossil-fuel free, after a new deal was signed to integrate an advanced microgrid into the operations of the island's main utilities provider to balance growing demand for electricity with increased renewable energy generation.

Industrial automation and power grids specialist ABB will provide the advanced microgrid to WEB Aruba N.V the only water and energy production company on Aruba. The utilities firm has a goal in place to generate 50% of its annual energy from renewables and the remainder from alternative fuels by 2020 and is also supporting the government’s goal of becoming a fossil-fuel free island.

Aruba itself has a land area of 179 square km and is home to around 103,000 inhabitants. As a popular tourist destination, the island’s electricity demand has spiked and will continue to grow. Currently, 134MW is used to power the island, using a mix of thermal, wind and solar photovoltaics.

The microgrid solution will maximise the use intermittent renewables, which only perform optimally during favourable weather conditions.

“This innovative microgrid solution will support the island of WEB Aruba to integrate more renewables and maintain reliability and efficiency of power supplies to meet increasing demand for electricity,” ABB’s head of grid automation Massimo Danieli said.

“The embedded software, automation and control technologies will also facilitate 24 hour forecasts and enable a stronger, smarter and greener grid.”

The microgrid provides WEB Aruba with real-time optimisation capabilities to forecast and cater for growing electricity demands on the island. The system will adjust and dispatch renewables output to accommodate load and availability.

Island ideologies

Aruba is the latest island to turn to renewables to limit a reliance on fossil fuels. On the Isles of Scilly, a £10.8m energy storage project will test how electric vehicles (EVs) and domestic batteries can integrate into low-carbon energy systems that reduce electricity costs and promote the use of renewables.

Elsewhere, Tesla has issued the sale of 272 Tesla Powerpacks to provide electricity after dark to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The island’s main utilities firm will use the Powerpacks to store solar energy generated in the day from the a 13MW solar farm to generate electricity during the night.

The developments build on the findings of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which highlighted that nations such as Fiji, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu could easily meet domestic energy needs through renewables.

In the UK, a report commissioned by the Scottish Government found that a cluster of Scottish islands including the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland could receive a £725m economic boost if they were converted into renewable outposts.

Matt Mace

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