September was a terrible month for the Caribbean. That season is usually prone to hurricanes but this year has been very active with heavy consequences for local populations.
The Caribbean islands have suffered terribly from the hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria, all within 2 weeks. Our thoughts are with the people impacted by those storms and to all the technicians who are hard at work to rebuild their country.
VERGNET has over 260 hurricane proof wind turbines installed in the area. The GEV MP medium-power wind turbine model that is installed in Cuba, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Nevis and Puerto Rico was specifically designed by VERGNET to withstand hurricanes by lowering its blades to the ground. VERGNET CARAIBES staff have been mobilized on site in order to tilt the turbines down and secure them both for Hurricane Irma and then for Hurricane Maria. VERGNET CARAIBES manager, Alexandre Vannier thanked his teams for their involvement within a very short space of time and in difficult conditions.
We can confirm that our turbines weathered the storms and were ready to put back into production just after the hurricanes. They survived Hurricane Irma which was of Category 5 reaching its peak intensity with 185 mph (295 km/h) winds. It is the ninth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record.
Then Category 5 hurricane Maria came along and attained peak winds of 175 mph (280 km/h). The islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique also endured widespread flooding, damaged roofs and uprooted trees. Puerto Rico has suffered catastrophic damage, including destruction of its previously damaged electrical grid but the wind turbines on the island survived.
Although the last ones were dramatic, hurricanes are common in that region. The last season to have five major hurricanes was 2010, and before that, 2008 had five, 2005 had seven and 2004 had six.
VERGNET settled a subsidiary in Guadeloupe in 1992 in order to be close to its achievements to do the maintenance and to have a team on site if necessary. It covers the whole Caribbean. Today, there are 14 people working for the subsidiary. Every year to reinforce the team during hurricane alerts, the VERGNET CARAIBES team trains about 10 people, called reservists, to help the current staff to secure the wind turbines on the ground.
“As we intervene in emergency situations everyone needs to know exactly what to do in order to be the most efficient. Every year, before the beginning of the hurricane season, we organise a special training for reservists to intervene in case of a hurricane alert” Alexandre Vannier, VERGNET CARAIBES Manager says.
VERGNET CARAIBES is in charge of consulting for renewable projects, installing and connecting them to the grid (at different levels), training staff in charge of operation and maintenance, maintaining facilities during their entire life cycle (for 20 years) and operating wind farms.
At the end of September, 3 technicians from VERGNET CARAIBES went to Barbuda to help local population to recover drinkable water. “When we reached Barbuda and saw such a disaster everybody stopped talking on the boat. It was like a nightmare but no, it was reality” Alexandre said.
They brought and installed E’Chlo sets. Each solar direct drive electrochlorination set is securing drinkable water for a few hundred people. The production is based on the addition of salt to non-potable water then the conversion of that into drinking water by electrolysis, working with a photovoltaic generator without battery via a production controller The team also assisted the repair of the desalination power plant. These actions will allow a progressive return of inhabitants of the village which is a first step before a long return to normal life on the island.