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Solar Development in the Dominican Republic


The Dominican Republic is poised to become a major proving ground for the viability of solar energy in the Caribbean region. Traditionally beset by high electricity costs, maxed-out generation facilities, and a distribution system prone to major fluctuations in power quality due to poor infrastructure and disruption from natural disasters, the country is now in an excellent position to address these issues thanks to its ongoing development of solar generation capabilities.


Electricity prices throughout the Caribbean have long been significantly higher than North American and Latin American electricity prices, due to the cost of importing fossil fuels to run generators, which make up a substantial portion of electricity generation. In the Dominican Republic, high base rates for electricity are further exacerbated by variable tariffs that make planning for future energy prices difficult.  The government has made breaking the cycle of high prices and fossil fuel dependence a priority by setting the ambitious goal of 25% renewable use by 2025. Solar energy holds the potential to significantly lower energy costs and improve power reliability in the wake of natural disasters, low voltage events, and other disruptions to the grid by providing a more distributed scheme for delivering electricity.  A handful of solar developers are already operating in the country, with some focusing on 250 to 500 kilowatt (kW) rooftop projects and others specializing in larger ground-mount installations.


The role of the inverter provider

REFUsol/AE Solar inverters at the Consorcio Remix solar PV installation in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. Photo courtesy of Trace Solar, S.R. L.

REFUsol/AE Solar inverters at the Consorcio Remix solar PV installation in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. Photo courtesy of Trace Solar, S.R. L.


Among the growing number of foreign firms that are getting involved in the effort to build up Dominican solar infrastructure, inverter manufacturers occupy a unique position between grid operators and project developers. Because an inverter serves as the “brain” of a solar installation and the main point of contact between generation and distribution equipment, the inverter provider often remains heavily involved in a project throughout the lifecycle of a photovoltaic (PV) site. In the Dominican Republic, this position poses challenges due to grid instability and limited domestic experience with solar project development, but it also creates opportunities for inverter manufacturers to effect significant improvements to the country’s energy sector.


The role of the inverter provider in the Dominican Republic poses challenges due to grid instability…


Conditions in the Dominican Republic require inverter manufacturers to adapt many aspects of their operations to a sometimes challenging set of circumstances. AE Solar Energy encountered this first-hand when designing and deploying inverters for several rooftop PV installations in San Cristóbal and Punta Cana. For instance, trip settings had to be recalibrated to accommodate wide variability in power frequency and voltage. And since the country sits in a lightning-prone region, the inverters provided for these projects had to be retrofitted with more advanced surge protection devices than would otherwise be necessary for other markets. Inverter providers must also be able to devote personnel to travel to the Dominican Republic to train local installers who have limited experience in deploying solar equipment. And because of the language barrier, it’s also extremely helpful to have fluent Spanish-speakers on staff. In many cases, the provider is also able to conduct operations and maintenance (O&M) remotely by integrating comprehensive monitoring solutions into installations; this also requires training, in addition to governmental approval of the software platform.


The need for continued monitoring and O&M for installed inverters calls for the inverter provider to become a long-term partner to Dominican solar developers.


The work of inverter manufacturers in the Dominican Republic results in direct contributions to strengthening the country’s solar sector. On-the-ground training is creating a foundation of domestic knowledge and skills that will become increasingly important as solar use continues to expand. The need for continued monitoring and O&M for installed inverters calls for the inverter provider to become a long-term partner to Dominican solar developers. This guidance and support is fostering a broader outlook on energy; solar installations are decades-long investments that are reshaping the nature of energy planning in the Dominican Republic. Lastly, the equipment being deployed is steadily phasing out aged and unreliable infrastructure, and is creating an opportunity for the country to shed its long history of poor power quality.


Meeting the needs in the Dominican Republic


A number of next steps need to be taken before the Dominican Republic realizes the full potential of its solar energy resources. Aside from the infrastructure and natural challenges that face project developers, government support of the solar industry has been inconsistent; rebates on importing solar equipment and a number of tax incentives on renewable energy generation were created in 2007, but withdrawn by mid-2012. Also, reliable delivery of the newly generated solar energy being sent to the grid will require an overhaul of distribution and transmission infrastructure. While these will be large undertakings in the short term, the benefits of energy independence, clean energy, and creation of valuable expertise in the rapidly-growing field of solar energy more than justify these measures in the long run. As the Dominican Republic’s prospects for solar continue to grow, inverter manufacturers will continue to make an impact on this emerging market long after their equipment has been installed.



Category/ies:News, Regional News.
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