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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

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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