Wind energy way to go
MAJOR ENERGY LEADERS are gung-ho about Government’s plan to achieve 29 per cent renewable energy generation within the next 20 years – a plan which, they say, is unlikely to be realized without wind power.
President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Andy Armstrong said while there was still a question mark over a consensus on wind farms because of limited land space, it would not be easy to generate a large amount of renewable energy without it.
“There’s still opposition to wind, often based on non-scientific reasons, but we still feel that wind has to be part of what we’re trying to do in Barbados. To reach this 29 per cent of our energy coming from renewables by 2029, the goal from the Ministry of Energy is to install 70 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, and it’s going to be difficult to install those without wind energy,” he told the packed workshop on the final day of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF) at Hilton Barbados.
He added, however, that one of Government’s other projects – waste-to-energy – would be a reality “fairly soon”, while the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels for roofs was also an area in which Government was committed to taking the lead and offering incentives, including a 50 per cent rebate on land tax for homeowners.
“It is not the future, it’s now. There are a lot of investment opportunities and there’s no question that everyone wants to see solar PV happen in Barbados,” said Armstrong.
Meanwhile, Solar Dynamics’ managing director James Husbands revealed that his 34-year-old company, which has made Barbados a world leader in solar energy technology, would be working in the photovoltaic arena with Guyanese company Farfan & Mendes, with which it has a relationship going back two decades.
“We’re going to reduce the learning curve by bringing them on board in a joint venture in Barbados,” he stated.
“The march to wider use of renewable energy in Barbados should not be based on how long it takes. Rather, we need to look at . . . the return on investment coupled with the guarantee of performance,” he said, noting that with just over 50 000 solar water heating installations in homes and industrial plants, the country had saved $1 billion up to the end of last year.
“We believe we have the opportunity to expand on that footprint in the Caribbean and North America . . . and based on what we have seen in Florida, we should be able to compete with the products there,” Husbands added.
Barbados National Oil Company Ltd’s (BNOCL) former general manager Ronald Hewitt said the replacement of 83 million barrels of oil used daily across the world won’t happen overnight as Barbados and most other countries sought to create green economies and less expensive ways of harnessing energy.
He urged Barbadians to “carefully design and build a bridge” to take Barbados from fossil fuel to renewable energy in a sustainable and reliable way that would make it available to everyone.
“Some 50 per cent of our imports go towards power generation, and some 33 per cent goes to transportation and industries. Our approach therefore must seek to look at the renewable sources that help us with these major cachets. Therefore, we are looking at solar, biofuels, biomass, wind and natural gas,” he told the workshop.
Hewitt said BNOCL had a mandate from Government to set out on a path to be a local, and possibly regional, leader in the change to renewable energy, and it had therefore created a renewable energy department and a PV maintenance facility while harvesting rainwater in 31-gallon tanks.
With a 28.48-kilowatt PV system installed eight months ago at the BRC Factory at Cane Garden, St Thomas, Williams Industries’ chief executive officer Ralph “Bizzy” Williams estimates a possible reduction of the cost of electricity to between 22 cents and 41 cents per kilowatt hour (KWh). One “best case” scenario resulted in a cost of 29 cents per KWh following a favourable finance cost of 3.2 per cent.
Williams, a veteran in the commercial use of wind power, also reiterated the call for battery powered vehicles which would drastically reduce emissions and be an alternative source of energy for residents while the cars were parked.
Government’s ideal, as articulated by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, is to achieve renewable energy generation to provide 29 per cent of Barbados’ electricity consumption by 2029, thereby reducing electricity cost by more than $560 million.