Video: Geothermal gets high priority in energy plan

The American Samoa Strategic Energy Plan (ASSEP) has been compiled and will be sent to the National Renewable Energy Lab that was contracted by the Department of Interior to work with the American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee (ASREC).

 

Samoa News has obtained a copy of the plan, which will be forwarded to Governor Lolo M. Moliga for approval before the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) and the Territorial Energy office (TEO) carry out implementation.

 

TEO Director-designee Tim Jones told Samoa News yesterday that funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

 

According to the plan, in recent years, energy prices have become increasingly volatile, as resources are scarcer, more difficult to extract, and subject to global competition. The plan notes that "In 2002, America Samoa suffered a severe fuel shortage due to a tanker delivery being turned away by the EPA. This crippled the industry, government and the welfare of American Samoa’s citizens for weeks. In 2008, a massive global price increase in fuel devastated government budgets and hit hard the pockets of already impoverished citizens. 

 

Additionally, natural disasters are occurring more frequently and with greater intensity, threatening the stability of fuel sources, reliable power generation, and affordable pricing. Communities such as American Samoa often find themselves left at the margins while trying to overcome these difficult challenges. Rapid changes in the cost or availability of energy have serious effects on the entire community."

 

"The Strategic Energy Plan recognizes the seriousness of these past occurrences, the effect it had on the economy and the community, as well as the increasing likelihood they will happen again," the plan states. "American Samoa’s response to this will be what defines and determines its quality of life and economic future."

 

GEOTHERMAL ENERGY

 

One of the items listed in the plan refers to geothermal energy which Jones says "is a serious thing." He added it is not new technology, as it is being used in other places including New Zealand and Hawai'i. Jones said the one they have planned to set up in the territory is similar to the ones that have been in use in the US for 50 years.

 

According to Jones, if everything goes as planned, Tutuila can expect to be fully off of diesel for power generation by the end of 2016. "This is an aggressive time schedule, and if anything gets in the way, including legal issues and problems with the EPA, an extension will be made."

 

He said development will cost approximately $4 million to drill slim holes  - not production wells.

 

"In order to find the resource, we have top people in the world from the geological society evaluating American Samoa right now, telling us where to drill," Jones explained, adding the money for this comes from the Empowering Insular Communities (EIC) grant of $640,000 from DOI which is to fund Phase 1 and 2 of geological studies to confirm high probability of geothermal resources.

 

Phase 1, which is theoretical, is already completed while Phase 2 is underway. The latter involves "people actually coming here to confirm everything and conduct a fly-over to locate hotspots and detect geothermal seepage," Jones reported.

 

He said they expect to start drilling 6,000-ft. deep holes in three different sites by the end of 2014 and the exact locations cannot be revealed at this time.

 

"If everything flows smoothly, we anticipate putting out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a company experienced in the area of geothermal IPP (independent power producer) to come down and build a power station," Jones explained. "We will not own and operate the power plant. Instead, ASPA will buy power from them and then distribute it."

 

Jones continued, "If the geothermal power station comes on-line and goes to full power, we can expect energy cost savings, to the tune of $50 million - money that will go straight back into the economy."

 

In a nutshell, Jones said, having a geothermal power station means we will no longer have to send money off island to buy diesel and this will result in utility rates being lower. "There will be no need going to ASPA to buy fuel but instead, consumers can use the money to buy groceries and other necessities for their families."

 

In the plan, under geothermal strategies, it is noted Tutuila "requires a base load solution to its energy challenge."

 

"The Strategic Energy Plan recognizes Tutuila and Manu’a as having very different energy profiles requiring different strategies,’ according to Jones. "Tutuila has a daily peak power demand greater than 20MW while Manu’s has two separate grids (Olosega and Ta’u) each under 500 KW. Due to the magnitude of power consumption in Tutuila and the challenges that high levels of solar and wind penetration create in grid stability, a base-load scenario with a primary focus on geothermal will be the primary option."

 

“Fortunately, American Samoa’s geological make up and proximity to the Pacific Ring Of Fire gives it a very high probability of having a sufficient geothermal resource for providing base load generation for Tutuila," the plan states.

 

"Solar and wind will be considered as a secondary option should geothermal fall short of expectations. However, providing that the geothermal resource is abundant, Tutuila will develop the resource so that it provides 100% of the base load power. This will eliminate the need and cost of diesel power generation, currently estimated at roughly $50M annually or greater than 10% of the overall ASG Budget. This can potentially be completed by the end of 2016."

 

The following is a geothermal developer’s checklist:

 

1.            Determine Exclusions

 

2.            Identify Cultural Issues

 

3.            Contact Lead Agency

 

4.            Secure Geothermal Rights and Land Access / Control

 

5.            Apply for Exploration Permit

 

6.            Conduct Environmental Study

 

7.            Obtain Well-Field Development Permits

 

8.            Determine Water Regulations

 

9.            Obtain Construction Permits

 

10.            Identify Utility and Transmission Requirements

 

11.            Evaluate Resource Potential

 

12.            Put Out RFP for IPP investment

 

More on the ASSEP will be published in future editions of  Samoa News.

 

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