WIND GENERATED electricity may be commercially viable for Bermuda in five years, predicts Belco boss Garry Madeiros.

And he said that more island residents should be taking advantage of solar energy technology already available on the local market.

Madeiros told the Bermuda Sun that the utiltity company had been monitoring developments in energy

technologies for close to 10 years. And he revealed that Belco has spent $100,000 over the last year on wind energy feasibility research.

After comprehensive research which included trips to Denmark to study wind farms, and to Italy to examine the implementation of offshore wind technology, Belco engineers late last year installed equipment at Warwick Camp as a first step to determine conclusively how viable the technology would be for Bermuda.

ãThe main component is sustainable winds,ä Madeiros said. ãThereâs a certain level one needs on a sustainable basis before we even consider using wind technology.ä

The equipment will measure wind speed and direction for 12 months ãso we can have indisputable evidence of what can be obtained and whether that is feasible or not.ä

Additional studies will have to be done at the end of the 12 month period. ãThere are a lot of hurdles to be crossed,ä added Madeiros.

The hurdles include the hurricane factor, consistency and continuity of supply and other unknowns. ãThe biggest thing is what results come from the testing we do for sustainable winds,ââ Madeiros cautioned. ãThat is the number one requirement of anything to be considered.ââ

And if it all pans out, Bermudaâs waters could be dotted with, initially, anywhere from five to 20 wind turbine generators providing about 10 per cent of the islandâs energy needs. At 250 feet, the turbines will stand almost 100 feet higher than the Belco smokestack.

Land-based turbines have already been ruled out because of space limitations.

At todayâs prices the cost of installing the technology ÷ not including maintenance ÷ would be at least $20 million. ãAt current prices it is not economically viable,ä he said. ãThis technology is expensive but thereâs a lot of competition right now and a real commitment by countries and manufacturers to utilize it or manufacture it.ä

He added that while Government had not been approached at this stage with regards to providing financial subsidies. ãThere is no country in the world where it has not been subsidized.ä

Madeiros is encouraged by technological improvements over the last few years. ãIf the same improvement is made over the next two to five years we could do something very interesting.ä

Island residents can already purchase photovoltaic cells which transform light energy into electricity. Large areas of open space would be required for Belco to provide photovoltaic energy on a wide scale, said Madeiros. But ãfor a residence it becomes a whole different ballgame. It does have viability for heating water· and Iâm surprised a lot of people havenât taken advantage of it. Itâs extremely viable,ä Madeiros said. ãItâs something that I think should be taken seriously. In fact we have recommended it to the Environment Minister ÷ that some stipulation should be made with regard to solar powerä in planning applications for new buildings. Madeiros said the fact that widespread residential utilization of solar panels would cut into Belcoâs bottom line was inconsequential. ãAs a good corporate citizen we share responsibility for the environment. And we have to say it is an opportunity that will provide benefits in the long term.ä

Other forms of renewable energy include wave and tide, but, Madeiros said, they are not viable for Bermuda because the island does not have big enough tidal shifts or waves. The utility has also been monitoring developments in alternative energy technologies ÷ as distinct from renewable energy.

Technologies like fuel cells have no visible emissions and are noiseless, are also five years away from commercial viability, said Madeiros.