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By Gerardo R. Partido

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, March 21) – Encouraged by President Bush’s call to lessen the nation’s reliance on oil, the Guam Power Authority is planning to fast track its planned deep sea cooling project, which is being eyed by the utility as an alternative source of air conditioning for the Tumon tourist district in the northeastern part of the island.

Also known as "seawater air conditioning system," the process uses cold water pumped from the depths of the ocean to cool adjacent buildings.

John Benavente, the general manager for consolidated utility services, told Variety that Guam Power Authority is actively pursuing the use of alternative energy sources such as deep sea cooling to lessen its fuel costs.

"Over 50 percent of our costs are borne by fuel oil. That’s money that leaves the island and doesn’t have any multiplier effect. With alternative energy, we can have more of our money stay on island," Benavente said.

He added that the ocean-cooling project lost some of its urgency when fuel prices remained low. But now that fuel prices are up again and with President Bush encouraging more use of alternative energy, Benavente said Guam Power Authority is taking a second look at the project.

"We may also look at solar and wind power projects, but they will be more supplemental in nature," Benavente said.

He described the ocean cooling technology as a clean, renewable, and sustainable alternative to conventional air conditioning and said it is already used around the world.

The technology has already been tested and adopted in many parts of the world including Hawaii, Canada, and Sweden and the technology is now being established in Curacao and Tahiti.

Because of the economy of scale, the ocean cooling system is seen as most appropriate for supplying multiple buildings or hotels in coastal areas, making it ideal for the Tumon strip.

According to Guam Power Authority, if the power consumption of the energy-hungry hotels and other Tumon structures can be supplied from the ocean, power generation requirements will be lessened and there will be less demand for fuel-generated power.

By the next decade, Benavente is hopeful that 10 to 15 percent of the island’s energy load will be generated by alternative energy.

"We’ve already completed the study, which concluded that the system was feasible for Guam. We’re now going meet again with the different stakeholders to ensure that the setting up of the system could be done in an environmentally acceptable way," Benavente said.

Among the organizations that Guam Power Authority plans to meet are the members of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, University of Guam experts, and the Guam Environmental Protection Agency.

"We also want to go out again into the bond market to raise money for this project and our other existing projects such as the underground power pole program," Benavente added.

March 21, 2006

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