EIA puts OTEC project on rocks

Jeffrey Todd, Guardian Business Editor
According to well-placed sources, the failure to officially revise elements of the environmental impact assessment is the source of recent doubts for the project.||
According to well-placed sources, the failure to officially revise elements of the environmental impact assessment is the source of recent doubts for the project.|| ||

NASSAU (TNG) -- Plans to construct a $102.3 million seawater district cooling (SDC) system at Baha Mar have been momentarily derailed due to failed revisions to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) plan, Guardian Business has learned.

According to multiple well-placed sources, the bone of contention lies with alterations to Cable Beach’s ecosystem, more specifically the area around Goodman's Bay.
Machinery and equipment running both underwater and on the surface have sparked concerns on the impact to the natural environment. Likewise, local residents and those that frequent Goodman's Bay have grown increasingly outspoken on the project.
The SDC plant, projected to reduce the $2.6 billion mega resort's electricity demand by up to 90 percent, is being spearheaded by Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTEC). The U.S. company has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to deliver two renewable energy plants to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).
Recent events, however, have cast doubt on OTEC's ambitions in The Bahamas.
“I think it has to do with their ability to get approvals and meeting conditions that would be acceptable to the EIA,” said one well-placed source. “While they have made revisions to it, they have not informed the authorities of that revision in writing.”
The threat to the $102.3 million plant comes shortly after a document surfaced at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which revealed OTEC rejected a number of alternatives to the design.
The renewable energy company is seeking up to $40.9 million from the IDB for the project.
One of the many areas of concern, environmentally speaking, is certainly Goodman's Bay.
The report notes that the pipeline would have to traverse six national and international telecommunication cables beneath the bay. Representing a significant link for the country to the rest of the world, trenching and installing the OTEC piping “would involve an undesired level of difficulty and risk of damage to the cables”.
The report outlined a number of alternative routes and proposals for the pipping leading to and from the proposed SDC plant. One alternative is to construct landing sites east of the Baha Mar resort at Arawak Cay. While there are many benefits identified, multiple utilities located along West Bay Street and “major interference with traffic” help caused this idea to be thrown out. Baha Mar even considered shifting the route of the golf course to accommodate the plant.
Robert Sands, vice president of external and government affairs, said the OTEC project was not factored into the original business plan of Baha Mar. As such, the developers do not expect any fallout should the endeavor be officially squashed.
“It was purely based on cost savings, but for us and BEC. The original plan was already based on conventional air conditioning,” he added.
Executives at OTEC did not respond to requests for comment.

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