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Grand Bahama Going Green With Use of Solar Energy

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John Jones standing at street light, showing the solar panel with the battery box located underneath.

West End, Bahamas – In Grand Bahama Island there are many businesses that are extremely concerned over high energy costs which pose a great threat to their existence, but Ginn sur Mer has taken a proactive approach with the installation of state of the art solar powered street lights to help minimize energy costs.

Since the beginning of time, the use of natural light has been integral to man and it was only at the turning of the 20th century that artificial lighting was adapted as the main source of illumination.

However, the current costs associated with fossil-fueled-electricity is far reaching – hurting more than just your wallets, as there is an environmental threat that continues to loom.

Ginn Sur Mer has taken this into serious consideration and is now moving in the way of the future by significantly using nature’s own treasures to not only reduce energy consumption, but to play its part in the reversal of earth’s environmental deterioration.

CH2M Hill’s John Jones, the consultant and project engineer for the Ginn Project explains that energy costs are considerably lower than they would have been with the installation of 445 solar powered street lights, which stretch along the new roadway throughout Phase I of the Ginn Property in West End, Grand Bahama.

This latest project began in March 2009 with an official contract signing, and was completed in December 2009.

“What makes these street lights different from the standard streetlights is the wiring conduit which connects all the poles together to the power source,” said Jones.

“In this instance, you don’t have all of the wires and cables that are going from pole to pole to pole. Each pole is just a unit all by itself. Therefore, all you have to do is dig a hole in the ground and just put it in. You’re saving because all of the electricity is right there and you don’t have to put in all of the wiring cable and run it back to a power source,” he explained.

While it is known that street lights are only needed when the sun goes down, Jones explained that the solar panels enable electricity to be stored for up to five days ensuring light in the darkness.

“It is kind of opposite, isn’t it? We do have batteries and the batteries do store electricity at night. The solar panel actually creates electricity from the sun and it goes through a bit of electronics and that electronics connect to the battery. The battery actually stores the energy so that we will have it when we need it at night. It is a real simple system,” said Jones.

CH2M Hill is an international construction and engineering company based in Denver, Colorado which spearheads construction projects all over the world and has worked on the $4.9 billion Ginn project since its inception in 2005.

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445 solar powered street lights line Grand Boulevard, the main entrance to Ginn sur Mer.

As for Jones, he took up his post at Ginn in the fall of 2008 but can easily recount the devastation that the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 have had on Grand Bahama and the threat quick restoration of electrical power posed to residents.

“During the hurricane seasons a few years back, some of the public safety concern was that people have lighting immediately following the hurricanes. So the idea was that we would put in street lighting that would actually be powered by emergency power in the case the hurricane took out all of the power, but then the cost of that was high of course,” Jones explained.

“We started thinking of alternative ways that we could do the same thing and that’s when the idea of saving on the cost of all the wire, cable and generators to put in the solar lighting came about. We then decided that technology had come along far enough and fast enough and gotten cheap enough that it was a cost effective way of giving us street lighting and also giving us the ability to have lighting in case of massive power outages.”

He said that during the hurricanes, water levels rose and flooded that area, which is why the newly installed street lights stand just a bit higher.  We are trying to keep all of our infrastructure higher than the highest waters. For instance, our generators are all mounted at least plus 14’ above mean low sea level and that way, everything is saved,” he said.

It cost almost $2.1 Million to install the solar powered street lights.

“We’re getting good performance from these and as the project continues on, we will probably install more,” Jones said, who added that Ginn is preparing itself for hundreds of new residents who have purchased their piece of paradise from the 867 units that were on the market.

“Since our intention was that we could store enough batteries to operate these for five days even if there is no sunshine or if you have storms for several days in a row, there would still be enough energy to store and what that avoided was the cost of a diesel generator that so many people have to provide that backup power. We have all the backup power we need right here in the batteries.”

It’s all part of Ginn’s aim to turn the property into a green site, making it environmentally friendly one step at the time.

In fact, the marina Old Bahama Bay has received many environmental awards and an energy certificate for being a properly maintained marina, continued Jones, notably it is a designated ‘Blue Flag’ and Shark-Free Marina.

“Over at OBB, we have started to do some lighting retrofits, taking out ornamental and incandescent light bulbs that people commonly use in chandeliers, and we have replaced those with some high energy efficient fluorescents and LED lighting. Another unique aspect of the project from an energy standpoint is our concrete roads. Normally you don’t see concrete.

“Those are highly reflective. So they are cooler in fact, during the summertime when asphalt get so hot, the concrete roads are much cooler and they are also much more durable. They will last for many, many years whereas the asphalt roads have to be repaved, repaved and repaved in order to maintain them. Also the concrete is not a petroleum product, hence no run off into the environment.”



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