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St. Lucia Commits to Solar Power

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PRESS RELEASE – The Government of Saint Lucia has a target of generating 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This pristine island currently depends on dirty diesel generators for power, but has ambitious goals to revolutionize its economy with solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Solar represents the easiest attainable resource, and Saint Lucia is already famous for its sunshine, which draws visitors from around the world.

To mark the start of its own renewable revolution, the Government of Saint Lucia has partnered with the non-profit Solar Head of State to install solar panels on the public residence of the Governor-General, Government House. Solar Head of State’s mission is to help world leaders to role-models in environmental stewardship by encouraging the adoption of solar PV on prominent government buildings. Saint Lucia’s officials first announced their intention to install the panels on the Government House at the Paris COP21 Climate Conference in December 2015.

Saint Lucia’s recently appointed Minister, with responsibility for Renewable Energy, Hon. Dr. Gale Rigobert, said, “The commitment of Saint Lucia to transit from dependence on fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy is demonstrated here by this project to install solar panels at the Governor General’s official residence.”

The plan will also help to reduce energy costs for citizens of Saint Lucia which, like most island nations, suffers from astronomically high electricity costs that hinder economic development. The government, in collaboration with the local electricity utility LUCELEC, is currently completing the bidding process on its first utility scale installation, a 3MW solar PV facility that will power 5-8% of the national energy demand.

Solar Head of State assembled an international consortium of project donors from across the clean energy sector to carry out the project. Major contributions were received from California-based solar installation company Sungevity and from the California Clean Energy Fund. Panels were donated by manufacturer Trina Solar and inverters from Enphase Energy. Support was also received from Elms Consulting, a London-based strategic consulting firm working to accelerate sustainable development on islands. Australian firms Wattwatchers and Solar Analytics provided system-monitoring expertise and equipment.

The engineering and construction was donated by British Virgin Islands based Free Island Energy; and Saint Lucian company Noah Energy. Strategic partners include the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Carbon War Room, and the Clinton Climate Initiative.

“This is a terrific opportunity to help grow the local economy and create local jobs. Free Island Energy and Noah Energy trained local trades to build this project, and now there are trained solar technicians in Saint Lucia – keeping money and skilled jobs on the island,” said Marc Lopata, President of Free Island Energy.

Solar Head of State also has won support from globally prominent sustainability and renewable energy champions including high-profile entrepreneur and adventurer, Sir Richard Branson; environmentalist and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben; and former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who became the first 21st century solar head of state when he put an 11.5kW solar system on his Presidential Palace in 2010.

Sir Richard Branson, a long-time supporter of Caribbean efforts to use renewable energy commented “It’s wonderful to see this type of leadership for a cleaner and brighter future in this region that I love so much – and from a small island too! Congratulations, Saint Lucia and Solar Head of State on this fantastic initiative that sends a positive and strong message to the world.”

Danny Kennedy, author of ‘Rooftop Revolution’ and Sungevity co-founder, played a key role in both the installation of solar on Nasheed’s Presidential Palace in the Maldives in 2010, and in pressing President Obama to bring solar back to The White House in 2011. Now he hopes this campaign will go global and world leaders everywhere will take the initiative to install solar on their residences.

“There will be a time when not using solar will be unthinkable for any elected leader, and it is closer than many people think,” said Kennedy. “Once they get the opportunity to have rooftop solar, people love it. But at the start of the solar uptake process, support from governments and leadership by example from political leaders is vital to building early momentum.”

“That’s why the example being set by the Government of Saint Lucia to accelerate the adoption of clean energy in the Caribbean, is so important. It’s one roof today, but will be many over the years ahead. The rooftop revolution has come to Saint Lucia.”

Starting with Saint Lucia, Solar Head of State’s smart solar roll-out is focused on five small states in the Caribbean this year and early next year. Then the campaign will be looking further afield to Asia and the Pacific islands towards the end of 2017 and beyond.

See photos of Solar Head of State here.

 MEDIA CONTACTS

Solar Head of State

James Ellsmoor – Email: jellsmoor@solarheadofstate.org; Phone : +1 919 338 4564 / +1 758 722 8404

Maya Doolub

mdoolub@solarheadofstate.org

+44 7817 638 324

Government of Saint Lucia

Permanent Secretary Sylvester Clauzel

sylvester.clauzel@govt.lc

+1 758 468 5840 / +1 758 720 3119

5Cs Daily Tip: Go Solar

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Reduce your carbon footprint by employing solar energy. You can add value to your home and reduce your electricity usage by installing solar panels.

Some CARICOM countries offers solar incentives: read more.

What incentive are there for solar usage in your country?

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Green jobs boom: The frontline of the new solar economy

The growth in renewable energy is fuelling new jobs in Asia and Africa. Meet three beneficiaries of the new green economy from Zambia, Pakistan and Kenya

Placing solar panels on roof of house to charge, Longisa, Bomet district, Kenya
Placing portable solar panels on roof of house to charge, Longisa, Bomet district, Kenya Photograph: Corrie Wingate
 While the price of oil is plummeting, taking with it a significant number of jobs, the renewable energy job market is booming. It is estimated that it will grow to 24m jobs worldwide by 2030 – up from 9.2m reported in 2014 – according to analysis by the International Renewable Energy Industry (Irena), which predicts that doubling the proportion of renewables in the global energy mix would increase GDP by up to $1.3tn across the world.

The rise and rise of the solar industry has been the largest driver of growth. In 2014, it accounted for more than 2.5m jobs, largely in operations, maintenance and manufacturing – now increasingly dominated by a jobs boom in Asia.

The industry is providing hope and income to workers – present and future – across the global south.

Sheila Mbilishi, ‘solar-preneur’, Zambia

Although employment in renewable energy is comparatively low across Africa, the sunny continent is where the need and potential for employment is perhaps greatest. A fast-growing economy and population is driving demand for energy, but two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to electricity.

Now the renewables revolution is witnessing the rise of a generation of African “solar-preneurs” who are creating small-scale businesses by taking solar energy – in the form of lights, radios and mobile-phone charging facilities – into local communities.

In western Zambia, Sheila Mbilishi is self-employed and sells solar lights to local residents and businesses. The 67-year-old widow and mother of six buys the lights for $5 from the social enterpriseSunnyMoney – part of the UK based charity SolarAid – and sells them on with a 50% profit margin.

“They sell like cupcakes,” says Mbilishi. “There is life in the lights – people got interested in them.” They are popular with pupils who want to study after dark, businesses during electricity blackouts or as a replacement for toxic kerosene lamps in homes.

Since starting the business three years ago, it has provided Mbilishi with a significant source of income, helping her to open a shop and build a two-bedroom flat. “The difference is huge,” she says. “Selling lights has helped me a lot. I have built a house out of the lights. Owning personal ones has helped me too with the current load shedding – electricity is usually off and I am not affected by no light.”

Shehak Sattar, renewable energy student, Moscow

For Shehak Sattar, choosing to study renewable energy was more a social than a personal decision. “I want to practise something different from the mainstream. It is related to the concept of believing in humanity and our survival on earth,” he says.

Shehak Sattar at the ational University of Science and Technology in Moscow

FacebookTwitterPinterest: Shehak Sattar at the National University of Science and Technology in Moscow Photograph: National University of Science and Technology in Moscow

The 27-year-old Pakistani student is now four months into a masters degree in the science and materials of solar energy at the National University of Science and Technology in Moscow, funded by a scholarship. The course is in its first year and has mostly attracted international students – from Afghanistan and Iran to Nigeria and Namibia.

Before coming to Moscow, Sattar worked for NGOs and other agencies in Pakistan, installing and spreading the transmission of solar energy to remote communities and to slums in Islamabad and Lahore. Larger solar projects are now starting to come online in Pakistan, amid ambitions to construct the world’s largest solar farm.

“There has been a general electricity crisis in Pakistan. People are waiting for alternatives to rescue them from this suffering,” he says.

Once he has completed his course, Sattar wants to work at a university in Pakistan “to convert the attention of students to renewable energy sources” by lecturing and researching methods to make solar energy more efficient.

“We have to fight more,” he says. “We have to fight against the people who will be digging for petroleum in the coming 20 years because it will destroy our ecology’s balance.”

Mohamed Abdikadir, solar panel installer, Dadaab, Kenya

The promise of renewable energy in refugee camps could save humanitarian agencies hundreds of millions of dollars and provide job opportunities for thousands of young refugees.

Mohamed Abdikadir, 21, was born in the refugee camp complex at Dadaab in eastern Kenya, where the average family spends $17.20 per month – 24% of their income – on energy. The complex is home to more than 330,000 refugees.

Like most of his neighbours, Abdikadir’s family came to the camp after fleeing the civil war in Somalia more than two decades ago. Both his parents have since died, leaving Abdikadir to provide for his 10 younger siblings. He is now one of 5,000 young people trained to install solar panels as part of a programme in Kenya and Ethiopia organised by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which has recruited local teachers to deliver it.

Solar panels in Dadaab refugee camp
Solar panels in Dadaab refugee camp Photograph: NRC

“It was hard [to learn] at first but I tried my best and now it is easy,” says Abdikadir. After completing a six-month programme a year ago, he gets up at 5am every day to pray before preparing breakfast and collecting the tools for his job in Dadaab’s dry desert landscape. “There is a lot of sun here.Renewable energy is very good in this environment.”

Before he started the programme, Abdikadir earned money by selling water but he could only make enough to provide one meal a day for his family. Now, with the extra income from solar installations – $10 on an average day – his siblings are eating three meals daily, have new clothing and are able to attend a fee-paying school.

“I am the breadwinner of the family,” he says. “[The programme] has really helped me. Before I was idle. It helps with my daily bread, my daily income.”

Abdikadir now wants to expand his education to incorporate other forms of renewable energy. Meanwhile, the NRC recently announced plans to deliver a similar programme on a larger scale for Syrians at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Credit: The Guardian

Is the Caribbean a paradise for renewable energy?

The Caribbean nations have all the incentives and resources to convert to 100% renewable energy. But is it happening?

Beach in Barbados

With plentiful natural resources and expensive fossil fuels, Caribbean countries have a strong incentive to be at the forefront of renewable energy development. Photograph: David Noton Photography/Alamy

What motivated Derek to get into solar power? Was it a desire to be green or combat climate change? “Climate change? I don’t even know what that is,” he says. “I just didn’t want to depend on the power company.” Electricity is expensive in Barbados. Derek bought a solar kit including one panel for $100 (£64).

Derek is a mechanic by trade and is using his system to charge car batteries. He has found a way to integrate his solar system into his business. This is entrepreneurship in its truest sense. A viable business venture for Derek and a chance for wider environmental benefits for the country are the win-wins, but neither of these was the prime driver for Derek. He was essentially a tinkerer with an idea and wanted to try it out in the hope of paying less for power.

Derek's shop

Derek’s shop Photograph: David Ince

If Derek can make it to such a level of self-sufficiency starting from small beginnings, does this mean that individuals and businesses with greater means have gone even further? Well, more Dereks are gradually popping up throughout the Caribbean, but generally the answer is no.

The Caribbean appears to be the ideal location for renewable energy development. Petroleum resources are scarce and renewable resources such as solar, wind and geothermal are plentiful. Energy prices are high as there is no opportunity for economy of scale benefits that large land masses enjoy. Added to that, climate change impacts pose a major threat to the region’s small-island economies that are largely dependent on tourism and agriculture.

Despite this, most Caribbean nations still use imported diesel or oil to generate 90-100% of their energy. So what has been the barrier to using renewables? Many people have pointed to the cost factor. Small economies mean that in most cases countries have difficulty in financing renewable energy projects that require high upfront capital. Also, regulations have been slow in setting clear rules for grid interconnection. These factors have led some international investors and developers to be cautious about entering the Caribbean market.

We can learn from Derek’s example and build on local talent. Indigenous grassroots knowledge paired with the experience and access to capital of larger local and international companies would be a winning combination.

The advantage of building on local interest and indigenous talent can be seen in Jamaica. The late Raymond Wright was trained as a petroleum geologist and was head of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) in the 1970s. His interest in wind energy was piqued while searching for areas with suitable geological characteristics for petroleum development. It soon became evident that Jamaica had a significant wind resource. Over time Wright shifted the focus of his energy development to renewables and PCJ took on a leading role in the establishment of the Wigton Wind Farm, which now generates about 0.1 % of Jamaica’s energy.

Jamaica is keen to build on Wright’s legacy. Expansion of the wind farm is under way and Jamaica plans to increase renewable energy use further, with a goal to reach 20% by 2030, as part of its Vision 2030 policy. There are plans for 20 MW of PV solar to be installed to compliment the wind farm. In addition, Jamaica is offering benefits for any company or individual selling electricity to the grid from a renewable source.

Back in Derek’s home island of Barbados, there is a story of another pioneer, the late Professor Oliver Headley. An organic chemist by training, he became a leading international voice for solar energy development. He got into developing renewable energy in the 1960s after a PhD student colleague challenged him to put the sun that was beating down on them daily to productive use. His pioneering efforts helped propel Barbados to a leader in solar water heater use in the western hemisphere.

There are three solar water heater companies in Barbados and more than half of households have heaters installed, which can be written off against income tax. This policy has been in place since 1974. The story goes that the then prime minister installed a solar water heater on his house and was so impressed with the results that he put the economic incentives in place.

Barbados is keen to expand the success of solar water heaters to solar photovoltaic with the introduction of the “renewable energy rider”. This allows people installing solar photovoltaics to sell their power back to the grid at 1.6 times the usual charge. As a result of this incentive, there are now more than 300 house-top PV systems in the island, and that is expanding. There is every possibility now that we will see more Dereks by 2020 and beyond, Barbados has set itself an ambitious goal of 29% of energy to be produced from renewable sources by 2029.

Wind farm in Curacao

Wind farm in Curacao Photograph: David Ince

A few other Caribbean countries have seen success with renewable energy. The Dutch Caribbean has led the way in terms of wind energy, with Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba all having significant generation capacity. The political connection to the Netherlands has helped with technical expertise and there has been economic support from the Dutch government. Jamaica has been able to build on the know-how of Dutch Caribbean countries in their own wind development.

Nevis, St Lucia and Dominica have all sought to develop geothermal energy projects, which is another source of renewable energy that has potential in the Caribbean. The Organisation of American States and the World Bank have provided capacity and financing support.

It is encouraging to see developments such as these. The groundwork has been laid through efforts of pioneers such as Wright and Headley and there are more grassroots leaders like Derek emerging.

But the efforts of individual champions cannot be successful without policies, legislation and economic incentives, which governments are slowly but surely putting in place. Having these policies on the books without recognising and supporting local businesses or providing an environment through which champions can come to the fore is likely to impede the progress of this spectacularly beautiful but vulnerable region in developing a flourishing green economy.

Some names have been changed.

Join the conversation with the hashtag#EnergyAccess.

Credit: The Guardian
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