Clean energy today can be generated from multiple natural sources such as the sun, water, earth and wind. Solar energy is the most popular and well known of these natural energy sources but wind is perhaps the least understood and utilised in the Cayman Islands.
Residential and small commercial-scale wind turbines, also known as “small wind” systems, are very site and purpose specific. Some parts of Grand Cayman will have more wind than others and thus these areas will prove to be more economically viable for wind turbines. If you live near the coast with unobstructed prevailing winds, you are likely going to have good wind potential. If you live inland with lots of natural and man-made obstructions, you will have much less viability.
One of the great benefits of wind is that at any scale it generally takes up significantly less space than the equivalent amount of solar power. This can pose significant advantages, especially if you have a site that is space constrained. That said the reality of small wind is that it is usually twice as expensive when compared to solar.
Conversely, large-scale utility wind is the cheapest form of energy today, thanks in large part to very mature markets for this technology at scale. The Cayman Islands does not yet have utility-scale wind turbines, largely because large wind farms have a negative effect on the country’s Doppler radar system. This is a problem that is currently being addressed by the government to ensure wind is part of Grand Cayman’s energy future.
So is it best for the average homeowner to consider wind turbines or just stick with solar panels? Well the answer depends entirely on your goals and objectives. If the objective is purely best economics — return on investment for the least upfront cost — solar is absolutely the way to go.
However, if a solid investment coupled with ensuring energy redundancy for avoiding power outages and being more energy self-sufficient is one of your main goals, then a system that includes solar, wind and a battery storage system is optimal.
Such a multi-faceted system provides the best of all worlds; the solar produces the majority of your clean energy during the day and your wind produces clean energy both day and night on a secondary basis. Your battery system then stores the clean energy from both these resources continually. This combination provides your home with round-the-clock clean energy production and ensures resiliency when power from the grid is not there.
Wind is a great “complementary” clean-energy resource in most use cases. It can significantly improve your home or business’s energy resiliency while making financial sense, if the consumer has the right site and use case for it.
James Whittaker is the founder of the GreenTech group of companies that provide renewable energy systems and design of eco-friendly, LEED-certified homes.