Bonaire Expects to be Completely Renewable by 2015

If you’ve never heard of Bonaire, you’re not alone. After the tiny island lost its sole power plant to fire in 2004, officials made plans to rebuild its generation capacity while focusing on renewable energy.

The Dutch-ruled 113-square-mile island in the Netherlands Antilles—about 50 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela—is primarily known as a destination for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts (because of its protected reef system). It could, however, before long have another claim to fame: the world’s first country to be powered exclusively by clean energy.

Now, a consortium of companies including the German turbine maker Enercon have formed a joint venture to build what will be the world’s largest hybrid wind-diesel system. The completed facility will consist of an 11-megawatt wind farm, a 14-megawatt diesel power plant and a 3-megawatt energy storage system. Once the project goes online, households in Bonaire could see a 10 to 20% drop in their electric bills.

To reach its goal of becoming 100% renewable in five years, the island is aiming to power the plant using algae biodiesel.

Algae-based biofuels are attracting increasing attention as promising second-generation non-food fuel sources. Companies large and small are investing in algae biofuel research, including Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM), which last year poured $600 million into related research.

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