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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Caribbean Island of Barbados To Get Waste-To-Energy Plant


One day soon the Caribbean island of Barbados will have part of its electricity needs supplied by a waste-to-energy plant.

Cahill Energy, based in Guernsey, announced the signing of an agreement with the government of Barbados on March 15 to build and operate a waste-to-energy plant. The company plans to invest up to $240 million in the plant which will be built in Vaucluse, St. Thomas. The plant is predicted to create up to 350 jobs, plus stimulate economic growth on the island and save the government of Barbados several hundred million dollars during the 30-year contract, according to estimates from Cahill Energy.

The waste-to-energy plant will use plasma gasification to transform up to 650 tons of solid waste a day into renewable energy. It will save all of that waste from ending up in a landfill and provide a domestic power source for Barbados which will reduce the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuel. It is expected to provide up to 25 percent of Barbados' total energy needs and reduce energy cost. Westinghouse Plasma Corp., owned by AlterNRG, will supply the plasma gasification technology.

In 2011, Cahill Energy started “exploring waste-to-energy,” according to CEO Clare Cowan, and the company’s “attention was directed towards the Caribbean.” Cowan adds that Cahill Energy is “confident that this investment represents a phenomenal business opportunity for our investors and offers even greater benefits to the people of Barbados.”

“This investment by Cahill Energy represents a ‘game changer’ for Barbados and truly belies any doubt that Barbados is still a preferred destination for solid, and impactful foreign direct investment,” said Hon. Christopher P. Sinckler, M.P., Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs of Barbados.

The planned waste-to-energy in Barbados may not be the first of its kind in the Caribbean. Last June, the EPA approved a key permit for a proposed waste-to-energy plant in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The plant will produce 77 megawatts, or enough energy to power 76,000 homes in five municipalities. If the plant is approved, it will be constructed in three years, create about 3,800 jobs and be able to process more than 2,100 tons of waste a day. No date is set for when the Barbados plant will be completed.

Waste-to-energy plants in the U.S.

There are 87 operational waste-to-energy power plants in the U.S., generating about 2,500 MW or about 0.3 percent of total national power generation -- an increase from 75 plants generating 2,238 MW in 2011, according to the EPA. More than 30 percent of municipal solid waste (MWS) is recycled every year, and the majority that is not recycled is generally sent to landfills.

One of those waste-to-energy plants operating in the U.S. is the Alexandria/Arlington Resource Recovery Facility in Virginia. The plant began operating in 1988 and serves about 300,000 residents in the county of Arlington and the city of Alexandria, which jointly own the plant. The plant’s three, 325 ton-per-day furnaces process 975 tons of solid waste and generate up to 23 MW of renewable energy that is sold to Dominion Virginia Power Co.

Image credit: Colt Group

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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