And yet we do nothing to use it!
* A letter to Ramgoolam, Berenger and Jugnauth
By Sydney Selvon
As we want Mauritius to be Mauritius, Ile Durable (MID), we are ignoring completely the huge reserve of energy right under our feet: geothermal energy that could produce all the electricity that our nation needs. It would be sheer irresponsibility for any Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition or future Prime Minister to neglect this potential. There are places in Mauritius where geothermal action could be detected right now. Anyway, across the planet, heat comes from underneath the ground from thousands of feet deep beneath and Mauritius is part of the planet!
In the UK, geothermal energy is being used and a power station has recently been commissioned to use geothermal energy. Mauritius, like New Zealand, where I am presently, has easier access due to its geology to that energy according to my friend engineers who are engaged in building geothermal plants. New Zealand is an Ile Durable because precisely of the geothermal exploitation. There are hot water sources (geysers), hot water streams, natural hot pools for swimming, etc.
There are geothermal power stations all over New Zealand. The country refuses to spoil its wonderful natural beauty and has achieved light years ahead of Mauritius, the concept of the Ile Durable (sustainable development) mostly thanks to geothermal energy exploitation.
I have written the following letter (slightly corrected for this article) to the Prime Minister in an e-mail dated 29 May 2012, and I am also now addressing the other top political leaders of the country as they should all be engaged in a non-partisan manner, in having this nation tap into the huge reserves of geothermal energy because this century will see the end of oil and the phenomenal rise of energy prices as the decades fly by. The text of the letter:
Dear Prime Minister, Dear Leader of the Opposition and Sir Anerood Jugnauth.
In case the political establishment is not interested, I am inviting the sugar magnates, who have done so much in terms of technological development for this country, to take up the challenge on their sugar lands.
I am in New Zealand in the midst of several geothermal power stations pumping power from underground to produce electricity for the towns and cities around. The engineers are telling me that Mauritius, as a volcanic country, must have huge reserves of energy underground. Those friends of mine, engaged in building geothermal stations in New Zealand, where this power is often obvious overground with steam coming out all over the country, tell me that even in Southampton, in the UK, which is not a volcanic country, geothermal energy is being tapped, so why not Mauritius and who said we cannot?
I read once a most stupid comment in the appallingly uninformed Mauritian media in such matters, that geothermal could awake the volcanoes!!!! A government cannot be that silly and ignore such a huge potential of indigenous energy as this would be sheer irresponsibility.
It’s your responsibility, I believe, to have a go at geothermal for the interest of the country.
We have a lot of extinct volcanoes under which, as in New Zealand, there are huge sources of thermal energy at about a few thousand feet. The principle is to drill about 3,000 feet under our feet and pump (also from underground) water which rises powerfully as steam and conveyed in steam turbines to the electric generators, and the steam then, condensed back into water as it cools, goes back to the underground water reserves.
There is a flow of heat everywhere in the world from deep down under the ground towards the surface and the gradient can be quite high in some places like Mauritius or New Zealand. It is stupid to believe that the geothermal projects will awake volcanoes or cause earthquakes. Actually, the engineers tell me that in New Zealand, where the ground shakes in many places, when a bore is made for tapping the energy there, the ground stops shaking and when the power station stops for servicing, the tremors come back.
I can show you a place in the sea, near the shore, in Mauritius, where very hot water comes from under the ground… That could be geothermal energy and my family and I used to enjoy swimming over that spot to enjoy the natural heat.
In the UK, which has a different underground structure than Mauritius, on 18 December 2010 the Eden in Cornwall was given permission to build a Hot Rock Geothermal Plant. Drilling is expected to last until 2012 with electricity being produced from the second half of 2013. The plant will be on the north side of the Eden Project, a showcase for environmental projects at Bodelva, near St Austell. It should produce up to 4 megawatts of electricity for use by Eden with a surplus, enough for about 5,000 houses, going in to the National Grid.
This is nothing compared, though, to the potential of Mauritius and New Zealand where the sources of energy are not that deep under the ground.
Whoever is Prime Minister of Mauritius, I would have made the same recommendation: come to my region in New Zealand, visit the geothermal plants (which I had wanted to do in 1996 when I was at the High Commission in Canberra), to see the geothermal plants. And make, as PM or future PM, the bold decision of using that energy for Mauritius as further in this century, there will be no more oil and our imports of fossil energy will cost huge money. I would advise Sir Anerood Jugnauth and Paul Berenger and my friend Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo as well to do the same thing if they were in power, but I have no political agenda, with only the national interest in mind. I will keep a copy of this message to use for the national interest in perhaps a media article. There was once talk of geothermal energy in Mauritius, but as in the case of many projects, nothing happened. This one is perfectly in line with the MID project and I see no reason for you to overlook this potential.
* Published in print edition on 1 June 2012