Geothermal energy is the heat energy within the Earth, often manifested in geysers, hot springs and volcanoes. It offers an energy source that is far more efficient than fossil-fueled power generation, and it doesn't emit greenhouse gases into the air. Geothermal energy can therefore be very useful in generating electricity however; it currently plays a limited role in the electricity sector. Despite the many challenges to develop geothermal energy presently, future development can contribute significantly to a region's electricity portfolio, thereby decreasing customer costs of electricity, providing a potentially clean resource for power generation and creating a new resource economy.
This paper evaluates the development opportunities for geothermal energy in the Caribbean with focus on main territories with potential geothermal resources. One of the main challenges to producing electricity from geothermal energy is the source of high temperature reservoirs near the Earth's surface. Such resources are rare since heat supply is normally encountered very deep in the earth's subsurface therefore resulting in many geothermal reservoirs being technologically or economically unfeasible to exploit.
In the Caribbean, however there are high-temperature reservoirs that are located close enough to the Earth's surface, making them feasible to exploit and be potentially viable. The Lesser Antilles islands arc in the Caribbean have been largely built by volcanism above a subduction zone. As the Atlantic Plate is being sub-ducted under the Caribbean Plate, it gives rise to active volcanoes making for very attractive geothermal energy exploitation. The data from these estimated resources potential was used to determine development strategies for extracting thermal energy for power generation.
The methodology can involve the use of technology from the oil and gas sector to explore for economically geothermal resources with sufficient high temperatures to warrant development. These include drilling exploration wells, development wells and evaluating reservoir potential.
The analysis shows that development of geothermal energy in the Caribbean with a vast clean resource potential should clearly be considered given the future increases in demand for power generation in the region and the potential to become energy self-sufficient. The potentially lower cost of electricity generation from geothermal energy can mean significant savings for customers in the region.
The various concepts, techniques, methods and technologies used in evaluating and drilling for hydrocarbon, can be successfully used in drilling exploration and development wells for producing thermal energy from the volcanic islands for electricity generation.