Suriname’s Government has announced that it will be investing in solar energy to bring electricity to remote communities across the country.
Gunzi, a Maroon village in the upper Suriname River region will serve as test subject for the project that was announced last Tuesday at the Cabinet of the President.
Alternative energy company WTEC from the United States was contracted to execute the project, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Natural Resources, national electricity company EBS and the Anton de Kom University of Suriname.
More than three quarters of Suriname’s landmass are blanketed by thick rainforest; most of the country’s inhabitants live in the capital Paramaribo as a result, several villages in the sparsely populated hinterland have not been hooked up to the EBS grid and make do with noisy diesel powered generators that are only switched on at night.
Natural Resources Minister Stanley Betterson underscored that bringing electricity to the remote villages will benefit education, industry and development of these areas.
Last month Government scrapped a proposal to execute a hydro energy project in the hinterland. The TapaJai project would call for submerging 240 kilometers of land along the upper Suriname River and installing a new series of turbines which would ultimately generate 275 megawatts of power. Residents of the surrounding Maroon villages have objected to that project.
Joining Government officials at the press conference, WTEC Director Brian Singh said solar energy is a cost effective alternative, as Suriname has plenty sunlight and the prices for solar panels are dropping worldwide. Singh announced that his company was donating the US$ 75,000 plant that will be set up as a pilot in Gunzi.
University students will monitor the Gunzi project for a year and their findings will be used to optimize its use and execute the project in other villages. Environment Coordinator John Goedschalk said that Government is investing in in-depth research to find the ideal mix of alternatives to supply energy; he said the criteria for this mix are accessibility, cost effectiveness and least impact on the environment.