NRG to develop micro-grid for Virgin island

NRG Energy has signed a deal with Virgin Limited Edition, part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, to develop a renewables-driven micro-grid for the company’s Necker Island.

The private island is a Virgin Limited Edition Caribbean resort and part of the British Virgin Islands.

NRG will supply electricity powered at least 75% by an integrated array of solar, wind and energy storage technologies, the company announced on Tuesday.

This system will be supported by new energy efficiency and energy control automation designed to reduce overall energy use and synchronize energy consumption with renewable energy production on the island.

The agreement was signed and announced by Branson and NRG CEO David Crane at the Creating Climate Wealth Summit taking place on Necker Island.

Hosted by Branson’s Carbon War Room non-profit organization, in partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute, the Creating Climate Wealth Summit is part of the Ten Island Renewable Challenge, which seeks to help island nations flip off fossil fuels.

The Necker Island Project represents the initiative’s "demo island" – demonstrating that the technical solutions required to achieve this result exist today.

By deploying highly distributed and locally automated and controlled installations, many island nations of the Caribbean can reduce and ultimately eliminate their dependence on fossil fuels for electricity, NRG said in a statement.

"The high cost of imported fossil fuels across these islands creates an opportunity to deliver clean energy solutions today at a much lower cost, without subsidies and with immense economic and environmental benefit to the people of the Caribbean," it added.

"With oil setting the marginal price of electricity, retail electricity prices in the Caribbean are among the highest in the world, hindering economic development, job creation and quality of life," Crane said. "By tapping into each island’s specific, readily available and ample renewable energy resources, we can achieve an immediate and significant reduction of operating expenses, imported fuel cost, carbon footprint and other air emissions and noise pollution."

Crane added that the renewables-driven micro-grid solution being designed and installed on Necker is intended to demonstrate this and provide a scalable real life application relevant to other Caribbean islands.

Branson stressed that the "potential for more renewable energy across the world is huge especially in places like the Caribbean, where islands offer an excellent test bed to demonstrate and scale innovative, clean energy solutions. While small compared to island nations, Necker is an ideal ‘guinea pig’ for the Carbon War Room’s Ten Island Challenge and will be able to show the potential of ‘state-of-the-art’ technologies in renewable energy."