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The Development of Barbados’ Renewable Energy Industry

Solar Panels on the Ministry of Transport & Works Building, The Pine, St. Michael

Barbados has a renewable energy industry. It’s penetration of solar water heaters is the highest in the western hemisphere and the 5th highest in the world.

Since 1974, when the full time industry started, Barbadians have been able to access solar hot water systems (a renewable energy product) as a replacement, or as an alternative to gas and electrical water heaters.

As children, Barbadians would put water out in a bucket or wash-pan during the day and on weekends in particular, so that the sun would provide them with warm water. In those days, this was the most widespread use of solar energy to heat water; as most Barbadians did not have a water heater.

Prior to the continuous production of solar hot water systems in 1974, there were a few heaters made by Messrs Hoad and Sinson of DM Simpson. Chemist Arthur Coppin also equipped his home at Risk Road, St. James with such a system.

Professor Tom Lawand of Mc Gill University, on a visit to Barbados, designed “A simple solar water heater”. This design was used by Reverend Andrew Hatch (now Canon Andrew Hatch) when he introduced the technology for widespread adoption, having built one for his home. Canon Hatch saw the technology as appropriate for the Caribbean.

The concept by Professor Lawand has been thoroughly changed to reflect the mission of Solar Dynamics to produce a world class product; aesthetically pleasing, efficient with high temperature, and a long service life.

The solar hot water industry has been supported by all of Barbados’ governments.

The benchmark Homeowner Tax Incentive of the Late Hon. Prime Minister Tom Adams, in his 1980 budget, has been cited as the turning point in the industry.

In that budget, the incentive was created for householders who installed a solar hot water system to claim the cost from their taxable income. This incentive to consumers, together with the duty free importation of raw materials for the solar water heater production, created the public confidence required to support the industry. In addition, high import duties were placed on gas and electric water heaters in order to dissuade consumers from buying these fossil fuel operated systems.

Hot water systems which required ongoing expensive fuel for their operation were replaced by solar water heaters which required no fuel for their operation.

The review of the solar water heating industry by Oak Ridge Laboratories on behalf of United States Agency for International Development showed that the cost of the incentives given to consumers between 1980 and 2002 cost the Government only 13% of the savings generated by these solar hot water systems.

The empirical information on the benefits of the use of solar water heaters was generated at the late Prime Minister Adams’ home in St.George, when the Solar Dynamics water heater installed extended the life of the family’s 100 lb cylinder of bottled gas from 3 weeks to 11 weeks. The gas, which originally served the family’s hot water and cooking needs, was required for cooking only, after the solar water heater was installed.

The 84 homes at Oxnard’s, St James, which were equipped with Solar Dynamics hot water systems under the Hon. Philip Greaves (now Sir Philip) with the technical assistance of Messrs Abdul Pandor and Louis Redman; paved the way for the inclusion of these hot water systems in Government’s housing developments.

Since then, developments at Orange Hill, St. James, Flat Rock, St. George, and London Bourne Towers in Bridgetown, have all been equipped with solar hot water systems by Government.

When the late Prime Minister, His Excellency Errol Barrow, officially opened the new facility of Solar Dynamics at White Park Road, he went on record stating his desire to see all of Government’s low income housing developments equipped with solar hot water systems.

The use of renewable energy has therefore had the support of both political parties in Government.

Except for the period of financial turbulence in the early 1990’s, the tax incentive introduced in 1980 remained at the disposal of householders. The incentives were re-instated by Prime Minister Owen Arthur during his first tenure in office in 1994.

On his return to Barbados from Trinidad, the late Oliver Headley, proposed the wider use of solar energy, through the development of solar electricity. Funded by the Government, he imported and installed solar photo-voltaic panels at the Montgomery Pavilion, Cave Hill, Combermere School, and Government Headquarters. An ice facility was also implemented using known technology. Before his return to Barbados, Oliver had imported a Solar Dynamics hot water system into Trinidad, as a replacement for the one he had built for his home.

The tax incentive for the use of solar electricity was introduced by The Late Prime Minister David Thompson in his budget of 2008.



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