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Solar power surge in Guyana

Quite a few Guyanese have, for a long time, had a serious electricity problem.
Many of our areas, particularly in the south, south-west and south-east of the country, are so remote that getting electricity through the usual grid system has been nothing more than a wistful dream.

A big panel at centre right powering the DIGICEL tower at Matthew’s Ridge.

However things are changing, thanks to the growing utiltity of solar energy or photovoltaic (PV) technology.
In a land of bountiful sunlight like Guyana, and with 89,000 terawatts or 89,000 trillion watts of electricity available from sunlight every day, solar technology is transforming the quality of life in many areas in the hinterland.
The rise of the use of solar power can be traced back to the recently closed Unserved Areas Electricity Project (UAEP), a collaboration between the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and the Government of Guyana (GOG).
In 2002, the government, seeing the need to extend electrification, sought the assistance of the IDB which resulted in the UAEP, at a cost of US$28.2M, commencing in 2004 and ending earlier this year.
Reporting on the UAEP recently, Ms. Morsha Johnson, Principal Project Coordinator, said that the marked increase in the use of PV energy system resulted from the hinterland component of the UAEP.
She explained that the aim of the hinterland component was to determine a set of technical, institutional, socio-economical guidelines, procedures and criteria to establish sustainable electricity schemes in remote areas where grid extension was not feasible.
She reported: “Four solar energy demonstration projects were originally planned to be implemented in Kurukubaru, Yarakita, Capoey, and Muritaro. However, due to the positive responses, and the obvious need, the project was extended to other remote hinterland communities. Today, a total of 1,750 solar systems are installed in homes (65, 125 watts), schools and other community buildings (250 watts) across 21 hinterland villages.”
More solar panels are going up every day.
Mr. Martin Carto of Farfan and Mendes, the number one supplier and installer of solar energy systems, confirms that over the past five to six years, more individuals are turning to solar PV modules as a source of electricity, and not only in the hinterland.
Many home owners in urban areas are turning to the use of solar water heating systems for hot water.
Some are installing electrical back-up systems (inclusive of batteries and inverter/charger) with the intension of installing solar panels later on as a means of spreading the initial cost of installation, Mr. Carto said.
He however feels that the renewable energy sector needs some form of regularization to ensure that consumers get value for money when investing in the various forms of renewable energy.
“Regularization would ensure competing agencies/companies/suppliers/installers, etc, adhere to predetermined standards and guidelines (e.g. the newly adopted National Electric Code, Article 690) providing fair competition, and will ultimately ensure consumer satisfaction and the development of the sector as a whole.”
Other more advanced options for the use and application of solar systems, such as grid connected photovoltaic systems which connect directly into the utility grid, need to be considered.
Such connections will allow for the sale of electricity to the utility company (Guyana Power and Light) if the consumer produces more energy from installed solar panels than is used by their load.

Panels going up in hinterland community of Wowetta, North Rupununi, Region Nine, under the Hinterland Electrification Programme.

Although it is technically possible for the installation of these systems locally, the requisite legislation is not in place.
Such a system, Carto said, significantly reduces the cost of solar systems and will see the more rapid  development of solar energy in urban areas.
An agreement needs to be established between the consumer/power generator and the utility company for the sale and purchase of energy.
As for advantages, solar power is pollution-free during use.
PV installations can operate for many years with little maintenance or intervention after their initial set-up, and as a result, operating costs are extremely low compared to existing power technologies.

The prices have been consistently decreasing; the current cost per watt installed is about $2,500.
Many local financial institutions offer their services to customers for solar energy investments, the most popular being Courts Guyana Ltd, who allow installation of the solar system at “relatively little up-front cost to the property owner.
THE Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) earlier this year launched its Green Loans scheme for items and projects aimed at reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, including the use of PV/solar panel energy.
The Government last week announced that it will shortly launch the LCDS Hinterland Electrification Programme through which it will install solar home systems in 10,500 Amerindian households in about 135 Amerindian communities that remain un-served with electricity.

Tender bids were publicly invited by the Office of the Prime Minister on April 8 for the supply of solar home systems to be submitted by May 31.

The programme is being executed by the Project Management Office, Office of the President, acting as Coordinator, with the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for procurement and monitoring activities with support from the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

This project will expand access to clean and affordable energy throughout Amerindian communities in the hinterland, and plays a major role in achieving the Millennium Goals for sustainable development in Guyana.

Mr. Carto of Farfan and Mendes summed up: “Guyana has ideal conditions for the application and use of solar energy, due to its geographic location.
“The Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), the country’s commitment to the use of alternative energy, the durability and reliability of certified system components, all make good for the prospects and development of solar energy in Guyana, with the resultant cost effective solution for energy generation.”




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