Published On: Sun, Jul 23rd, 2023

Renewable energy project meets with fierce criticism

WILLEMSTAD — Curacao wants to become a dominant player in the market of renewable energy, NOS-correspondent Dick Drayer reports, but the apparent plans to build windmill parks off the North coast of Curacao quickly met with an avalanche of criticism.

What is the plan exactly? A floating park of windmills that produces 5 to 6 gigawatt of electricity by 2035, more than enough to cover Curacao’s daily energy needs of 130 megawatt. The plan is to convert the surplus of energy into hydrogen and to export it in the region or even to the Netherlands.

The Dutch research vessel Fugro Brasilis is busy with the creation of a three-dimensional chart of the bottom of the sea around Curacao. The research is aimed at identifying a location for anchoring the first floating windmill park. The ocean around the island is two to three kilometers deep.

Tax payers in Curacao foot the bill for this project, an estimated €2 million ($2.24 million). In later stages the Dutch government makes funding and expertise available for the construction of six windmills with a production capacity of 72 megawatt. This part of the project should be completed in 2026.

In the future financing will come from participating parties who will get a concession from the government in Curacao. Details of this arrangement are unknown at this moment.

Raymond Chong of the Ministry of Economic Development is the project leader. He says that the windmills will be 150 meter tall and that they will be visible for the naked eye from the North coast.

On the south cost one location has been identified for a future windmill park. It sits at 13 to 16 kilometers off the coast and therefore the windmills will not be visible for tourists enjoying a day at the beach.

Reactions from readers on Knipselkrant-Curacao.com are mostly negative. One reader notes that a house-installation to capture this energy will cost around 70,000 guilders (around $39,000) and that not everybody will be able to afford this. Adding maintenance costs, the price consumers will have to pay for their energy will not be much lower, “unless electricity becomes even more expensive.”

The same reader points out that 30 percent of the price Aqualectra charges for electricity is compensation for “leakage” (illegally tapped power). “Illegal taps remain but the number of paying clients goes down. Therefore, electricity will become prohibitively expensive.”

Other readers are blunt with their comments: “Another dead horse from which a lot of family and friends are going to make money, just like the rocket-miracle of that crook Gerrit de Raaf.”

Another reader considers the plan “a great project” but wonders about its funding. “Private investors won’t do it, they are afraid that they will be destroyed by unions and government rules that have to be bought off. And the island does not have enough money to maintain existing structures. The project is feasible, but it is meant to satisfy the hunger of friend and family with financing. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Another critic of the plan is Harrie Verstappen, an 80+-years local whose main claim to fame is (according to his own curriculum) that he was “instrumental in suing Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte, leading to his conviction for fraud and money laundering.”

Verstappen wrote to us that the largest producers of wind energy are in financial trouble because the development of windmills is going so fast that designers cannot keep up with it. Maintenance is much more expensive than budgeted.

Hydrogen is produced through electrolyse, Verstappen wrote. “That is six to ten times more expensive than energy produced with fossil fuels. “Furthermore, he adds, there are already several places on earth where hydrogen can be pumped up. “Try to compete with that.”

Verstappen also claims that hydrogen has a 3 to 4 times lower energy density than diesel and A-1 jet fuel.

Transport and storage of hydrogen is also not easy, he wrote. “Leakage from pipes and tanks affects steel and that requires the development of expensive solutions.”

It is also unclear, he wrote, how the hydrogen will be transported from the windmills at sea to the coast. “Expensive pipes? That could cause an enormous disturbance of the bottom of the sea. And I am not even talking about anchoring those giants.”

Verstappen says that there is a cheaper solution: producing  hydrogen with electrolyse, using nuclear powered energy.  Furthermore, he adds, green energy is becoming more and more expensive to the point where tariffs in countries like Denmark and Germany are higher than those of Aqualectra.

“What the hell are we doing? Soon we will be stuck with another failed project. The Isla refinery has functioned for over a century while windmills have a life cycle of twenty to thirty years.”