Seawater Project Peaks BHA's Interest

The US-based renewable energy company that has partnered with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Baha Mar yesterday said it was looking to establish a permanent operation in Nassau that would create "more than 20-25" full-time jobs. It added that its technology would save the Cable Beach developer 8 Mega Watts (MW) of power per year.

Jeremy Feakins, chairman and chief executive of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTE), told Tribune Business that the seawater district cooling plant it has committed to build and operate for the Cable Beach developer, which will involve an investment "in excess of $100 million", would reduce the $2.6 billion project's air conditioning (A/C) related energy costs by "up to 90 per cent".

And apart from saving Baha Mar 8 MW or 35,000 MW hours per annum, Mr Feakins said a seawater district cooling plant of the size to be constructed at Cable Beach would save 58,000 barrels of oil and 26,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

With the Bahamas very much becoming OTE's forward operations centre, given its agreement with Baha Mar and the two potential ocean thermal energy plants it would build/operate under the MoU with BEC, Mr Feakins said the company was already looking for office space in Nassau.

Explaining that OTE hoped to win additional seawater district cooling contracts from other Bahamas-based hotels and businesses, once it explained the energy-saving and environmental benefits to them, Mr Feakins said the company's Bahamian-based staff complement could grow much larger.

"We are looking at setting up a permanent operation in the Bahamas," Mr Feakins told Tribune Business. "That was a commitment we made to Minister [Earl] Deveaux.

"We don't want to be an operator that comes into the Bahamas, does the work and clears off. We want to be part of the business community and employ as many local people as possible. It's certainly going to be more than 20-25 people on permanent staff."

How big the Bahamas-based staff became would depend on "how many contracts we get. It's looking good. We've been looking for offices and talking to our lawyers to set up the International Business Company (IBC). We've already done that".

OTE's links to BEC and Baha Mar have already caught the attention of the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) and other Bahamas-based resort properties. The BHA has asked the company and Mr Feakins to come to Nassau and give a presentation on seawater district cooling and its possible advantages.

"I think the interest of the group at that first meeting was to talk about seawater district cooling," Mr Feakins said of the BHA. "They've reached out to us, and asked us to come along and explain seawater district cooling and how it works."

Seawater district cooling uses cold seawater piped in from the sea to provide air conditioning to buildings, and Mr Feakins said it can either be a by-product of ocean thermal energy production or a standalone operation, as it will be for Baha Mar.

"It does save up to 90 per cent of electricity costs when compared to traditional A/C," he told Tribune Business. "It's definitely a huge saving for the country.... For Baha Mar it's going to save 8MW of power a year."

District cooling, Mr Feakins said, had "been around for donkey's years". The large-scale operations constructed to date have not used seawater but, rather, other water sources, such as the lakes employed by Toronto's downtown area. OTE, he added, had some 20-30 years' experience in the field.

As for the Baha Mar contract, Mr Feakins said it would follow the company's build/own/operate model, with OTE providing all the project financing itself. The seawater district cooling plant will be operational by 2013, he added, a full year ahead of Baha Mar's full opening.

"We've got engineers on the ground right now," he added. "They're [Baha Mar] a delight to work with, and we plan to have the plant up and running by 2013. They need it before they open. All the buildings need to be cooled and chilled, as there will be substantial interior decorating going on, floors put in. That can't take place in the hot Bahamian climate. We have to have A/C up a full year before they're ready."

Apart from the energy savings, Mr Feakins said Baha Mar executives were also keen on seawater district cooling because it was environmentally friendly.

"For the size of plant we're doing now, the reduced energy consumption is 35,000 MWh per annum, or 8 MW a year saved," he added. "The reduced energy consumption results in 58,000 barrels of oil saved, which is equal to 26,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year saved by doing a plant equivalent in size to what Baha Mar is doing."

A plant the size of Baha Mar's would involve an investment "in excess of $100 million", Mr Feakins said.

The Tribune
Published On:Thursday, October 20, 2011