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Don’t Slip in Solar Race



OVER THE RECENT YEARS, many Caribbean countries have warmed up to the idea of increasing the contribution of renewable energy in their energy supply mix, particularly through the installation of solar photovoltaic and wind turbine systems.


This development is indeed very important given the dire energy security situation in these countries, and the abundant renewable energy potential they possess.


In this regard, Jamaica seems to be set to make significant strides, based on recent announcements in the Press about large utility-scale wind and solar farm projects amounting to over 40 megawatts.


This is being driven by renewable energy targets that have been established as well as actions of the regulator in inviting proposal for renewable energy development. Construction of their wind farm has begun with a solar farm set to begin this year.


Barbados has long held the enviable position of being a leader in renewable energy in the Caribbean, and has also been one of the global leaders in terms of the penetration of its solar water heating technology, ranking among the top five countries worldwide for many years.


It is true that locally there has been a new wave of rooftop solar photovoltaic installations for power generation, thanks to Government policies and introduction of the renewable energy rider by the Barbados Light & Power Company (BL&P).


However, Barbados could be slipping in its standing as leader in solar technologies in the region and could be edged out by Jamaica in this race for position of leader in CARICOM.


St Lucia has also recently announced its intention to install a large-scale solar photovoltaic plant. The scale of the proposed plant in Jamaica (20 megawatts) will provide great visibility in this space, and possibly cause that country to cop the leadership spot for solar power generation in the region.


Given our long and solid history, as well as our established solar brand, Barbados should strive to maintain its leadership by installing the first utility-scale solar plant as early as possible. Maintaining our status holds significant benefits in the international arena and will [be] value added for our national brand.


Sharing the benefits

Beyond the competitive and branding elements, centrally generating a significant part of the renewable energy power holds the advantage of sharing the benefits of renewable energy (clean power, and lower stable costs), across the widest cross section of the customer base, and not just for the few who can afford it.


In 2014, BL&P announced plans for an 8MW plant for St Lucy, but there are apparent delays related to the slow process in our Town and Country Development Planning Office.


While I appreciate the absolute necessity of proper procedures and permitting, it is my considered view that agencies such as Town and Country Planning should be sensitive to the big picture and accord some priority to renewable energy, especially solar energy, in the context of strategic national development objectives.


Such an approach is being taken globally, especially given that such technologies are environmentally benign, and have large local pollution reduction and climate benefits.


Once again, I strongly believe that Barbados should not so easily relinquish its enviable position as a solar technology leader in the Caribbean. It should be the first country to have a large-scale solar plant, greater than one megawatt.


– JULIAN FERGUSON, Renewable energy enthusiast



Category/ies:Articles, Barbados Articles, Jamaica Articles, Regional Articles, St Lucia Articles.
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