Solomon Islands have learned important lessons on the importance and use of Geothermal Energy during the 2nd Global Geothermal Alliance High Level Conference held recently in El Salvador. The Solomon Islands delegation was led by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, Dr Christopher Vehe.
During the Conference, countries share experiences on how they developed geothermal power plants, the benefits of using geothermal energy and the challenges faced. The biggest challenge commonly face is financing Geothermal project. This is attributed to the need to undertake detail drilling of wells to source underground geothermal energy. However, once the geothermal power plant is developed and operational, the benefits outweigh the costs.
Furthermore, geothermal energy is a clean renewable energy that can be a source of electrical energy and it contributes towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions often attributed to burning of fossil fuels when supplying electricity.
As part of the Conference, the Solomon Islands delegation visited the LaGeo Geothermal power plant in El Salvador. The visit was organised by the government of the Republic of El Salvador and IRENA. During the field visit, the Solomon Islands delegation learnt about the operations of the geothermal power plant and how El Salvador uses geothermal energy and its benefit.
The delegation noted that El Salvador do not only use geothermal energy source of electricity but also for Agri-food. For example, they use heat from geothermal for heating coffee, produce banana chips, heating during cement manufacturing and honey.
The LaGeo geothermal power plant uses 190 degrees of heat and it generates about 95-100 MWh corresponding to about 7% of the country’s total electricity. This assisted in reducing the price of electricity in El Salvador to US$0.22 per kWh for households and US$0.19 for businesses.
The other benefit is it helps nearby communities to use the waste heat and stream from the geothermal to dehydrate fruits for commercial sale. The spin offs from the Geothermal power plant are amazing.
The Solomon Islands delegation also had fruitful bilateral meetings with other countries that have geothermal power plants to learn from and seek collaboration with them. The delegation also met with representatives from IRENA, the International Geothermal Association (IGA) and other experts. The delegation returns this week from El Salvador.