Tapping hurricanes for electricity

The Caribbean does not have any truly 70 to 100 per cent proof hurricane deterrent strategy. As such, many regions and coastal areas do not have any true disaster deterrent strategy.

New York has commissioned BIG Architects to work out “The Dryline” which is slated to cost an estimated $1 billion, to become New York’s answer to the Manhattan flood prone problem that is a yearly threat from storm water tidal changes.

In Italy, Venice is developing a $6.15 billion water protection infrastructure called the “MOSE project” to protect its city from potential devastating tidal changes. England is innovating new technology in developing a tidal change generator at Swansea Bay at a potential cost of $1.7 billion.

Based on the global warming factor, the Maldives is engaged in an emergency population relocation strategy with intentions to buy lands in other nearby countries, to facilitate the relocation of a majority of its population (over 350,000) seeing the consistent rise in the sea level. 

Climate change is a real and present agent that will be a player in the future of all regions of the world. 

Yearly, the Caribbean can expect anywhere between 15 to 25 storms and hurricanes with at least two to five developing into major hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) works to assist with formulating the predictions of the yearly hurricanes.

The outlook is produced in collaboration with hurricane experts from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Hurricane Research Division (HRD). The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

In the wake of hurricanes that yearly have the potential to devastate the region and cause the Caribbean to spend billions on early recovery strategies and redevelopment, it is time for the Caribbean to no longer accept hurricane destruction and devastation as a norm.

Richard Branson is proposing a post-World War II-like Marshall Plan for the Caribbean, realizing the traumatic level of devastation that has affected every level of our society. Reading and looking at the multiple organizations and entities which have preprogramed strategies waiting for the aftermath of Caribbean hurricanes make it very difficult for us to imagine any alternative scenarios for the region’s yearly condition.

Solution Based Innovative Thinking (SBIT) is what must drive the future of the Caribbean. Even before the time of the native Caribbean residents to our present multicultural population mix, the region has always been a place where there always existed the expectation of massive hurricanes with wind forces equal to and beyond 260 mph.

The Caribbean is in a most paradoxical condition, practically speaking. It has beautiful beaches, is a yachting and mega yacht haven, has rolling green hills, offers fantastic cultural experiences while simultaneously it is known as an area prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters that have the potential to devastate, assault, and ravish the region.

It is time that the Caribbean begins a reprogramming process. Within this reprogramming process, we are to consider the costs involved in continuing on the course the Caribbean is on now as opposed to making a decision as a region of nations to restructure our vision to facilitate a bold new path forward.

Today the Caribbean is guaranteed to have a yearly hurricane recovery budget of anywhere between $5 billion to $12 billion depending on the past year that is considered, but not including the costs attributed to the loss of human lives. Attention needs to be given to developing proactive tools to not only predict hurricanes, but also to innovate tools and new natural urban communities (NUC) to begin manufacturing a way to absorb the wind forces from hurricanes and turn them into energy.

Even though this seems like a far-fetched idea, it is ideas like these that need to start proliferating in our Caribbean innovative context. New York has their Dryline, Venice has their MOSE Project, England has their Swansea Bay tidal dam, and the Maldives has the idea to buy land on other countries. What does the Caribbean have as its future victory model?

As such, I have been so bold as to make a suggestion about a possible future scenario for the Caribbean.  I am an architectural engineer, an instructor at the University of St. Maarten, giving courses on a subject called Caribbean Metropolitan Architecture (CMA), which deals with this subject matter from a scenario that presupposes a superior energy efficient Caribbean. The course evaluates my concept that looks at a strategy that creates and incorporates a Passive Energy Generator Shield (PEGS) around islands that would have the potential to absorb hurricane wind forces and turn that wind into usable energy.

For now, this scenario is in a very early research stage, but with funding and the proper backing, PEGS as an energy and natural urban recovery strategy can quickly become one of the Caribbean’s most proactive hurricane preparedness strategies to date. Living in a Caribbean that has PEGS as a norm means having a region prepared and excited about the arrival of the hurricane season and having a world looking forward to regional and international Caribbean news reports that speak of record-breaking megawatt (MW) and gigawatt (GW) energy spikes from the Caribbean PEGS.

Source: (Damien Delano E. Richardson is an architectural engineer)

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