photo: Tim van Dijk

PHILIPSBURG – Two years after hurricane Irma hit Sint Maarten and one week after Dorian caused an immense amount of damage on the Bahamas, it’s hard to see how hurricanes can have a positive impact. But architect Damien Richardson (50), who’s also the head of the Social Economic Council (SER), truly believes that it can.

While a lot of islanders are still waiting on help and funds from the government and/or the World Bank, Richardson has an extremely positive view of the future. If his plans succeed, he’ll be welcoming hurricanes with open arms. “We have to think differently, rethink everything. Look at what a hurricane can provide and monetize it, it could mean a lot of money for the island.”

He began looking into hurricanes after Irma and saw a potential business model. He pitched it to investors and other interested parties.

Back in 2016 Richardson had a plan to deal with the dump in the middle of Philipsburg. It was going to be called Flamboyant Park and Mount Louis. Mount Irma has joined the list, with the rubble from the hurricane. According to his plans, these garbage mounds need to be leveled to 6 meters and a theatre, conference hall, and hurricane center have to be built atop these mounds and 1000 palm trees planted.

“The rubble a hurricane creates has to be recycled and turned into a revenue stream. Trash is cash if you separate it on time and collect it collectively.”

‘Look at what a hurricane can provide and monetize it’ – architect Damien Richardson, chairperson of the SER

Sint Maarten will always have to deal with hurricanes and according to Richardson that provides the island with an opportunity to use the expertise which it has gained.

“In the mean time we’ve become experts and no other country on the planet has the amount of knowledge we have when it comes to preventative measures and what to do during and after a hurricane. That our prime minister Leona Marlin-Romeo was invited to a climate conference speaks volumes.”

Richardson’s plan is to capture energy. But how do you capture energy from a category 5 hurricane, like Irma was? “Through the use of laser technology atop Sint Maarten’s mountains, we can capture the energy and turn it into electricity.” He calls this the passive energy generator shield (PEGS).

Hurricane preparation
Richardson stresses that hurricane preparation is still key. “Nature will not be directed. Hurricane Dorian has shown us that it can move in any direction and shift between the categories as it wants.”
But we learned a lot from Irma, he says. “Almost everyone has a generator, a cistern under the house, and most houses have had a concrete slab roof poured after Irma.”

Richardson expects to be profitable from his hurricane energy invention within five years. That is if he finds enough investors and the government supports his plans.