Solar and wind power project helps drug rehabilitation centre kick its carbon habit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 October, 2009, 12:00am

CLP Power is building wind and solar power facilities on Town Island, off the southern tip of Sai Kung, to replace generators that have supplied power to a drug rehabilitation centre with 50 inmates and 17 staff.

The Dawn Island Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre will become the first location in Hong Kong powered entirely by renewable energy. The plan will provide up to 192kW of electricity, enough to run about 200 air conditioners. When it is completed, carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 70 tonnes a year.

The two-stage project will cost more than HK$10 million. In the first stage, the company will install 100 solar panels this year to generate 20kW of electricity, enough to support existing facilities such as the chapel, kitchen and plant nursery.

In the second stage, 800 solar panels will be installed to generate 160kW of electricity, along with two wind turbines each capable of generating 6kW. Expected to be commissioned in 2011, the second stage will provide enough power for new facilities including hostels and a visitors' centre.

Dawn Island, a government-subsidised drug rehabilitation centre run by the Operation Dawn Christian group, is currently powered by three diesel generators, with the fuel transported by sea.

Operation Dawn applied for power supply in 1999, but CLP Power's power systems director Paul Poon Wai-yin said submarine cables and overhead lines would not be practical for the island.

'Using an overhead line would damage the sea view,' he said. 'Using submarine cable would damage coral in the sea.'

He said the renewable energy system could help to reduce costs by about 20 per cent, compared with using submarine cables.

He said such cost-efficient renewable energy systems could be the best choice for outlying islands, depending on the space available and the amount of electricity needed.

Operation Dawn general secretary Mamre Lilian Yeh said the lack of a reliable electricity supply had been a problem for more than 10 years.

'I am very excited,' she said. 'Since the generators cannot operate for 24 hours, they often break down.

'We stop using the electricity up to four times a day and food in the refrigerator often rots. It was troublesome. But from now on, I do not have to worry about the reliability of the electricity.'

The centre, founded by the Reverend John-Paul Chan in 1968, helps drug users fight their addictions through religious study, prayer and vocational training.

The centre has been operating on the island since 1976.