The Caribbean island owned by Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson is to be fitted with a solar and wind powered mini-grid installed by US-based NRG Energy.

The system will be installed on Branson’s Necker Island, one of the British Virgin Islands, supplying up to 75% of its energy needs and reducing its reliance on diesel-generated power.

NRG’s proposed system will integrate solar and wind generation with storage technologies linked to a new energy efficiency and energy control automation designed to reduce overall energy use and synchronise energy consumption with renewable energy production on the island.  

The island will be a demonstration project for the Ten Island Renewable Challenge programme initiated by the Carbon War Room, the body set up by Branson to promote low carbon growth. The aim of the initiative is to encourage island nations to shift away from fossil fuels.

“The potential for more renewable energy across the world is huge especially in places like the Caribbean, where islands offer an excellent test bed to demonstrate and scale innovative, clean energy solutions,” said Branson.

“While small compared to island nations, Necker is an ideal ‘guinea pig’ for the Carbon War Room’s Ten Island Challenge and will be able to show the potential of ‘state-of-the-art’ technologies in renewable energy.”

NRG Energy chief executive David Crane said: "With oil setting the marginal price of electricity, retail electricity prices in the Caribbean are among the highest in the world, hindering economic development, job creation and quality of life.

“By tapping into each island’s specific, readily available and ample renewable energy resources, we can achieve an immediate and significant reduction of operating expenses, imported fuel cost, carbon footprint and other air emissions and noise pollution. The renewables-driven micro-grid solution being designed and installed on Necker is intended to demonstrate this and provide a scalable real life application relevant to other islands of the Caribbean."

The installation of the renewable power system is subject to regulatory approval in the British Virgin Islands, which the parties promptly will seek to obtain with the appropriate regulators.