Roadmap to a Sustainable Energy System: Harnessing the Dominican Republic's Wind and Solar Resources

Alexander Ochs, Xing Fu-Bertaux, Mark Konold, Shakuntala Makhijani, Sam Shrank, and Cristina Adkins | October 2011

Eighty-five percent of electricity production in the Dominican Republic is generated from imported fossil fuels. This dependence comes at a high cost for the country’s economy, making it extremely vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations, creating an unfavorable trade balance, and causing local air and water pollution as well as contributing to global climate change. Energy efficiency, generation from domestic renewable energy resources, and smart grid solutions can show the way out of the predicament.

This Roadmap to a Sustainable Energy System is the result of more than a year of intensive research by the Worldwatch Institute in close collaboration with the Dominican government, local experts, and other key stakeholders. We applied a holistic approach to our work, starting with the most detailed solar and wind resources assessment ever undertaken in the Dominican Republic, and then analyzing both the challenges with grid integration as well as the socioeconomic consequences of increased renewable energy supply. Finally, we evaluated the country’s regulatory, policy, governance, and finance environment and formulated options for reforms in all these sectors.

Our in-depth analysis of the solar resource in the Dominican Republic’s two largest cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago, as well as our analysis of the wind resources in six promising zones across the country, yields the following highlights:

  • There is strong solar potential across the country, with average global horizontal irradiance (GHI) generally ranging from 210 to 250 watts per square meter (W/m2 ), comparable with the potential of the U.S. Southwest and superior to other well-positioned areas, such as the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Both Santo Domingo and Santiago have very strong solar potential. Although other sites in the Dominican Republic boast even higher insolation figures, grid integration efficiency and the economies of scale involved in installing and servicing solar equipment in the two biggest load centers make the technology a favorable source of electricity in both cities.
  • For wind resources, we identified 78 sites with a capacity factor of over 30 percent, as well as superior resources mostly in the southwest, including in Pedernales and BanĂ­, and in Montecristi in the northwest.
  • Wind variability is high, however, meaning that wind development will need to consider geographic diversity as a way to address intermittency issues.
  • Decentralized electricity generation using renewable energy systems is particularly attractive in the Dominican Republic because of high transmission and distribution losses in the existing grid as well as the prevalence of residential backup power systems, mostly diesel-powered generators.
  • Improving the grid’s reach and capacity is important for the most efficient and highest level of integration of variable renewable generation.