Mr. James Knapp will be the owner of the 3,000 square ft custom built home scheduled for completion by the end of the year. REI’s system received building approval from Cayman Island Government and it’s Building Control Unit making replication of its “carbon neutral” system possible anywhere in the world governed by International Building Code (IBC) rules.
“The system is comprised of a 10 kW solar array and wind turbine, hydrogen generation and storage, along with a fuel cell for converting hydrogen back into electricity on demand,” explained Michael Strizki, the inventor of the REI Renewable Hydrogen System. “The whole house energy system will cover all of the home’s energy needs and provide 10 days of backup power in the event of a total outage due to a hurricane. It can also provide hydrogen for vehicle refueling and for home appliances as these products are rolled out,” he explained.
“Having our renewable hydrogen power system approved under the IBC rules demonstrates that the reality of a completely renewable energy system is no longer in the future, it is here now”, Strikzi continued. “We now have the ability to replicate this system for remote homes, commercial buildings, for backup energy storage and for essential community buildings such as hospitals. We hope to set an example here for all island communities to follow.”
The renewable hydrogen system will be designed to meet the home’s total energy needs without reliance on any external source of energy. However, the home will remain grid-connected at the request of the homeowner, and with the support and approval of the Caribbean Utility Company (CUC).
“The environmental benefits are important, but not the only consideration,” said Mr Knapp. “For me, this is a financial play. With the rising price of energy on Grand Cayment, the numbers work right now to make this a smart move from day one,” he concluded. System financing was arranged through Butterfield Bank, a commercial mortgage lender on the island. Energy In the Cayman Islands Mr. Gian-Paolo Caminiti, COO of REI, explained the further significance behind the project:
“The island environment is a perfect application of this technology; it is a remote location, requiring imported electricity, and has abundant solar power available without systems in place to harness the energy. Installing a distributed (not connected to a central generation station) system here to generate power from a sustainable, carbon-neutral source makes perfect sense.
One system does it all; total energy needs are met all year long and, in the event of a hurricane or other disaster, backup power without any supply line dependency or interruption is secured. The potential applications for this throughout the region, and the world, are enormous.”
The Caymans receive an average of 345 days of sunlight annually, yet current electricity production in island environments is both carbon-intensive and extremely expensive, at roughly three times the cost of electricity in the United States. Currently, the Cayman Islands import 100% of their electricity, which is produced by fossil-fuel based generation methods, consuming over 400 million kilowatt hours (kWh) annually. As all of the electricity consumed is generated off-island and imported, additional transportation costs and adverse environmental impacts are incurred, including increased carbon dioxide emissions.
The Cayman Islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, whose government is now considering sweeping legislation to mandate sharp cuts in carbon emissions. Ms. Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Director of the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment commented favorably on the project when it was first announced last year. “Given the challenges posed by climate change for our islands, the Cayman Islands Department of Environment very much supports the use of renewable sources of energy. We are extremely pleased to see private individuals taking the initiative in this area.
The Cayman Islands Government has recently signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, so a national discussion needs to take place in the very near future on, among other things, the appropriate mix between renewable and traditional energy sources in meeting the country’s demand for electricity.” About REI The U.S. based company holds the distinction of developing the first prototype solar-hydrogen system near Princeton, New Jersey, USA, which was dedicated in October 2006 before international press coverage.
The home has been operating without incident for almost two years. This second installation in the Caymans will be 60% less expensive than the original prototype system and demonstrate the system’s significant cost and environmental benefits in an island environment. Onsite meetings can be arranged in with Mr. Strikzi, and Mr. Knapp on Grand Cayman from May 8-10, 2008.